Ateneo-FEU was a fun matchup to watch, don’t you think?
The game started slow especially for Ateneo who couldn’t immediately adjust to FEU’s defense. They committed back-to-back 24-second shot clock violations in the first quarter. With defenders all over him, Kiefer Ravena had to fish for fouls to score. In the second frame, Chris Newsome and Nico Elorde came up big for the Eagles.
After the halftime break, the pace of the game noticeably increased. Ateneo and FEU showed everyone why they’re the top offensive teams in the league by exchanging baskets and scoring back and forth, resulting to as much as seven deadlocks and 12 lead changes. Von Pessumal was essential to Ateneo’s rally in the second half. As expected, Mac Belo, Mike Tolomia, and Anthony Hargrove led the way for the Tamaraws.
Come crunch time, Kiefer took matters into his own hands as he drained a step-back jumper, a triple, and two freebies to give the Blue Eagles a comfortable nine-point cushion. The Tamaraws put up a fight and slowly trimmed the lead down. With 28.5 seconds remaining, they were brought within one possession by a Francis Tamsi shot from downtown. Clutch baskets courtesy of Tolomia were canceled out by free throws from Newsome, Elorde, and Kiefer, making Ateneo emerge victorious in the end, 81-78.
Review of the Keys to the Game
It seems like FEU learned their lesson from their previous game against UE where they turned the ball over 31 times. They were prepared to break down the full court press of Ateneo, often resulting to easy baskets for the Tamaraws. In consecutive possessions, their ballhandler was able to pass the ball to somebody in the middle then across the court before the pressing defenders recover. If my count is correct, the press only worked to Ateneo’s advantage thrice (at least in terms of forcing turnovers) – one of which ended up as a counter-turnover because Elorde lost control of the ball. FEU had a total of 13 turnovers in the game, but Ateneo only managed to score 11 points off them. Ateneo had one less turnover, but FEU converted more with 13 TO points.
STOP BELO AND TOLOMIA
Newsome vs. Belo, K. Ravena vs. Tolomia… who will you root for?
The Blue Eagles tried to stop Belo and Tolomia. They were more successful with Mike as he was limited to 5-of-16 shooting (0-of-6 from deep). He only got away in the crucial minutes of the fourth when he single-handedly threatened to send the game to overtime. But throughout most of the match, he couldn’t unleash his scoring potential. Mac Belo, on the other hand, is a different story. He was unstoppable. He managed to sink difficult shots, grab offensive boards from out of nowhere, and clean his teammates’ as well as his own misses. There was this one possession when Belo was blocked by Newsome, but he immediately recovered, calmly rebounded the ball, quickly attacked, and scored two. Everyone was like, “what just happened?” This guy comes off the bench and only averages 25 minutes per game. Monster, I tell ya.
The success of Ateneo’s offense in this game was not only due to better shooting, moreso by better playmaking and off-ball movement. They shot 42.1 percent from the three-point area, compared to FEU’s 22.2 percent.
The Blue Eagles’ floor spacing has been consistently good this season, but I think their off-ball movement improved so much in this game, making it easier for Kiefer and Elorde to set their teammates up. Kiefer repeatedly drew defenders from the elbow and created shots mostly for Newsome, Pessumal, and Arvin Tolentino. He dished out a total of seven assists, while Elorde contributed five dimes.
I really loved the hustle and energy shown by the Blue Eagles
excluding Arvin – keeping in step with the man they’re defending, grabbing rebounds (although FEU outrebounded them 37-35; Hargrove with 13), and fighting to get those loose balls.
I was happy that my guess of not playing the rookies in this game was wrong. Thirdy Ravena, in particular, played quality minutes. He finished with four points and five rebounds, and more importantly, helped guarding Mike Tolomia. This will be good for the kid’s confidence and for Ateneo’s bench production in future games.