So much for extending their winning streak.
The Ateneo Blue Eagles failed to protect their unblemished record as the NU Bulldogs stopped their flight and brought them back to the ground, 64-60. Now both teams have a 3-1 win-loss record.
NU pretty much set the tempo of the match to their favor. Ateneo threatened to change it late in the first period when they made a 7-0 run – a triple by Von Pessumal, a Kiefer to Newsome alley oop slam (finally successful on their third try this season), and two freebies by Kiefer. But come second quarter, Troy Rosario exploded and exploited the weak defense of the man in charge of him, Arvin Tolentino.
Arvin tried to make up for his defensive lapses by single-handedly refusing NU to pull away in the third frame, scoring eight of the 12 points of the Eagles in that quarter.
Rebounding defined the endgame as offensive boards by the Bulldogs helped seal the victory.NU finished with 48 rebounds (15 offensive), while Ateneo only managed 34 boards (8 offensive).
Keys to the Game
What pressure defense? Ateneo could not contain the Bulldog guards Rev Diputado, Pao Javelona, and Gelo Alolino, who combined for 22 points. It was even more challenging to control the big men Alfred Aroga (9 points, 11 rebounds) and Troy Rosario (16 points, 8 rebounds). To Ponso Gotladera’s credit, he did his part and sacrificed his body inside. Help defense from Chris Newsome almost always arrived on time too. But still, how many times have we seen Ateneo defenders left in the dust as the Bulldogs cut to the basket or shoot a three off a screen?
The Eagles also did not employ a full court press until late in the fourth with under three minutes remaining, which if done earlier, may have made a difference in the outcome of the game.
NU successfully made this game a low-scoring one, limiting the points production of Ateneo who averaged 87.3 points coming into this match. They only managed 18 points inside the paint against the Bulldogs.
This has been the story of the Blue Eagles this season. They rely more on scoring from the perimeter (except in the game against UP) because of their lack of height. It’s all good when their shooting is hot, but what if it’s not? Case in point: this game. Ateneo’s good ball movement could not bail them out as they visibly struggled from the field (19 makes out of 62 attempts!!!) all throughout. No luck from the rainbow country as Ravena, Pessumal, Newsome, and Elorde combined for a disappointing 7.7 percent (1-of-13) 3-point shooting.
The offense towards the endgame revolved around Kiefer to a fault. Von Pessumal and Newsome could have taken their chances when Kiefer (13 points on 3-of-20 shooting) continued laying bricks and missing those triples.
TRIPS TO THE CHARITY STRIPE
Ateneo made 18 of their 22 free throw attempts, compared to NU’s 15-of-27. Most of Kiefer’s points were earned from the line. He’s the only Eagle who worked hard to draw fouls while attacking the interior defense of NU. All the rest mostly settled for jump shots, which as mentioned, were not falling in. I expected Newsome to help in this department but for some reason he did not drive to the rim as much. Von was more aggressive than him in this game, notwithstanding Aroga’s solid block on him at one point.
|Starter Pts||Bench Pts|
Another story of Ateneo this season is their measly bench production. NU’s bench, led by Diputado, has been instrumental in this game. Unlike Ateneo, Coach Eric Altamirano has a deep roster to work with. The Blue Eagles’ coaching staff needs to find a consistent spark off the bench. The starters can only do so much. They will have their off days and carrying the bulk of the load all the time will take its toll. The question is who? Could it be one or two of the rookies who are yet to see a lot of action on the court?
Featured image courtesy of Mark Cristino, Pinoy Exchange