Playing with sense of urgency in this must-win game against the UP Fighting Maroons, veteran play maker Gelo Alolino showed oozing confidence as he poured a career-high 26 points including 10 straight in the dying moments of the final period and shattered any dreams of UP’s Final Four aspirations.
This is exactly what everyone wanted to see from a player who’s ascending to the top in his final year in the collegiate level. This was the type of certainty we wanted to witness from a go-to guy as he didn’t hesitate to take big shots down the stretch of a tight contest and tended to rip the twine rather than draw iron.
The Fighting Maroons put numerous defenders on him to contain the offensive attack of the Bulldogs by double-teaming him right away before Alolino touch the ball and orchestrate for his team. With under five minutes left in the final frame, he was a stud down the stretch by first nailing a cold-blooded corner triple to end UP’s mini-run. He then followed it with his back-to-back layups that gave NU its sixth win of the season.
UP entered this contest with a 3-8 record but it was clear as day that they were not pushovers. NU had a rough start in the opening half as the Fighting Maroons disarrayed their offensive sets by hounding Alolino and even took the lead before entering the dugout.
Poor shooting and dismal showing proved to be the reason why NU struggled to control the first half. Credit Cheick Kone‘s defensive presence inside the paint as he patrolled the paint and gave Alfred Aroga hard time inside though the Finals MVP finished with another double-double (17 points and 15 rebounds).
THE STORY OF OFFENSE
While the Bulldogs are known for their defensive prowess, it is actually their offense that has been propelling them to victories this season. In five of their six wins in Season 78, they have posted an offensive rating of at least 90 points per 100.
|UST (Rd 1)||79.7|
|AdU (Rd 1)||101.9|
|UP (Rd 2)||95.8|
|AdU (Rd 1)||97.2|
|DLSU (Rd 2)||104.9|
|UP (Rd 2)||94.9|
The offensive struggles of this squad are well-documented especially when they are losing as they heavily rely on the dynamic duo of Alolino and Aroga in carrying the scoring load. This game was not any different to be honest, as the two combined for 41 points.
Despite matching up against the pestilent UP defenders, the fifth year guard took over the game when needed the most. There was an instance that Alolino faked his defenders that he will go at the top of the key. Instead, he went backdoor underneath the basket and hit a tough floater against Jett Manuel. He also took advantage in the space provided to him courtesy of the screens provided by Aroga in which he nailed four-three pointers all in the second half.
THE REBOUNDING PARTY
Coming into this game, the Bulldogs were averaging 42.3 rebounds per game. Led by the Aroga-Alolino combination who grabbed 27 caroms, they outdone the Fighting Maroons in the rebounding department, 53-41. The Sampaloc-based squad coralled 74% of the possible defensive rebounds and 36.36% of their own misses. Other guys also stepped up to help the team in terms of rebounding with Nico Javelona and Jeff Javillonar chipped in nine and four rebounds respectively.
With this important win, the Bulldogs vastly improved their position in the pulsating battle for the fourth spot after La Salle was beaten by Ateneo in the marquee match of the day. Despite their struggles all season long, the defending champs managed to hang for their lives as their title defense continues. With a game left in their schedule (against FEU), the fate lies in their own hands.