Moments before Filipinos all over the globe cheered wildly for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup, Ateneo and UST gutted it out at the Araneta Coliseum. After struggling with sluggish beginnings in previous matches, the Blue Eagles finally managed to get a good headstart and maintained the rhythm until the end to sweep the team who kicked them out of the Final Four contention last season, 69-58.
Game Notes and Other Observations
KARIM ABDUL AGAINST THE WORLD
Karim Abdul is the lifeblood of the Growling Tigers. See when he did not play against UE? They trailed by a mile and would probably lose by a mile too if not for the fourth quarter curse of the Red Warriors (UST ended up losing by “only” ten points). Aljon Mariano is supposed to help Abdul in their quest this season but the team captain has been inconsistent so far.
In Ateneo’s previous three games versus squads with the tallest frontlines (DLSU, UE, NU), Ponso Gotladera averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds. He just came from a grueling war against the likes of Charles Mammie and Alfred Aroga. In this game, however, Gotladera was riddled with three fouls and only played for roughly eight minutes. He was successful in forcing Abdul to resort to jumpers at the start though.
Who among the Eagle centers stepped up? The rookie John Apacible. This kid may be undersized (vertically) but he’s not one to be easily bullied. Abdul had to be creative to be able to carve some space and score near the rim (17 points, 6-of-12). How many times did Abdul fall to the floor throughout the match? That’s how determined the blue shirts were in trying to contain the Cameroonian Tiger. I don’t know how it happened but even the 5’6″ Isaac Lim managed to bring him down at one point.
IMPROVED INSIDE GAME
Although Ateneo’s offense is still perimeter-heavy, their inside game has been improving especially in their last two games. The Eagles’ increased aggressiveness to attack the basket made it difficult for the Tigers to keep up.
|Round 1 Average||Round 2 vs NU||Round 2 vs UST|
Kiefer Ravena showcased his ability to find open teammates by making lovely drop passes to Apacible and Giboy Babilonia (aside from the usual kickouts to Chris Newsome and Von Pessumal), who do their part by finishing it strong and getting buckets underneath.
BATTLE OF THE BOARDS
The Blue Eagles made this part of their mission as they grabbed six more boards than the Tigers, 41 (11 offensive) to 35 (7 offensive). It’s unimpressive though that they only produced two second chance points and wasted several opportunities.
NO LEGIT PHENOM STOPPER
We all know it’s extremely difficult to stop a beasting Kiefer Ravena but the least opponents could do is make him double his efforts on both sides of the court and tire him out. De La Salle’s Julian Sargent and NU’s Pao Javelona somehow found ways to force him to take awkward shots (some of which miraculously found the bottom of the net anyway) and at the same time work hard on D. Putting Renzo Subido and Sheak Sheriff on The Phenom just didn’t cut it for UST. These two lack the size, the speed, and the experience to match up with Kiefer who finished with MVP numbers of 23 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three steals.
THE RETURN OF THE ROOK?
Arvin Tolentino was brought back to the starting lineup after coming off the bench in their previous two games where he barely saw action. For all his faults and shortcomings, I think it’s time to give back the rook’s minutes. He can help level the rebounding field (when he tries) and draw defenders away from the paint like what he did to Abdul in their first encounter.
Arvin contributed six points on six attempts (0-of-4 from downtown) and added six boards. Did you also notice how frequently he passes the ball now? He could’ve dished out at least two assists if only the ball recipients were able to convert. It’s good that he’s not forcing the issue although it also seemed like he suddenly became afraid to jack up threes. His shooting touch has been amiss in this round, but once he gets it going, it will be huge for the Eagles.
Featured image courtesy of Arvin Lim, Fabilioh