It’s been ten months since the NU Bulldogs ended their long 60-year title drought. The feeling of being a champion is undeniably a once in a lifetime experience for every basketball player. But everything must come to an end. Sabi nga nila, “Move on.” Like after your ex-boyfriend finally decided to call it quits. If that should be the case, the Bulldogs are back in a familiar territory once again after the defending title holders suffered a setback against UE Red Warriors and lost for the second straight game following their defeat against La Salle.
Is this a big concern for the NU faithful to be worried for? Or it’s just only championship hangover for the team? Will they finally showed the tenacity and teamwork that they did last season en route to capturing the coveted crown? Or will this struggle continue and find them in the cellar dweller?
1. NU struggled to find their rhythm in the early goings against the pressure defense of UE. The latter seized on an early 8-0 lead before the defending champs came back and found themselves trailed only by four points after the opening quarter, 20-16. Veteran point guard Gelo Alolino, who scored 23 points, led a ferocious 10-0 run by the Bulldogs to finally gain momentum and showed why they are the UAAP Season 77 champions. Their wall-like defense started to bite after they held the Red Warriors without any field goal in the last five minutes of the first half.
2. It’s very impossible to win a game if your team committed 31 turnovers (Yes, 31! No typo-error here.) The Bulldogs coughed up 11 turnovers in the entire third quarter alone. Former Holy Trinity College standout Bon Batiller, which I mentioned in the pregame primer to be the player to watch out, sparked a 28-9 scoring barrage for his team in which he registered 14 of his team-high 23 points that proven to be the dagger for the NU side.
3. Cameroonian Alfred Aroga, once again was a non-factor in this game, contributed only eight points and turn the ball over the same number he scored. Although he grabbed 16 rebounds, Aroga was simply not his usual self. Coming into the game, he suffered food poisoning last Wednesday, which maybe the biggest factor why the Bulldogs struggled to involve him into their offensive scheme.
4. Defense was the key for NU in winning their games but it seems that they’re not on the same level as compared to last season. In this game alone, they gave up 47.62% from the rainbow territory which led to UE’s 10 conversions from the three-point region. Even in perimeter scoring, the Bulldogs didn’t do well in defending the Red Warriors gunner. The Recto-based squad outscored their opponents, 42-20.
What should NU do to finally win?
Efficiency. Heading into their game against the Ateneo Blue Eagles, NU should continue to shot really well from field. In this game, they shot a high 50% clip from the field (26/52). Steady playmaking from Alolino and the involvement of Aroga in the offensive attack is the key for this team to success and finally register their first win and escape the horrendous 0-2 start they have since the Season 71.