Ateneo won their second game in six tries and are now just 1.5 games out of a Final Four slot, with eight games still left on the docket. Their Final Four destiny are still pretty much in their hands and a win on Saturday versus UST and the two-week FIBA hiatus would bring a lot of momentum and recuperation time for the ailing Eagles.

But as Kiefer implied  “Let’s take this one game at a time, shall we?”

Last Sunday, Ateneo won the battle between campus neighbor, the UP Fighting Maroons. It was a game that Ateneo pretty much had control over (except for a few minutes in the second). The animosity between these two teams (and schools) is almost nonexistent. The UP Pep Squad even played the “Go Ateneo” chant at the end of the game! I have no idea whether they were mocking us or not. I choose to believe the latter.

Graphs, Tables, Numbers

Four Factors
Team Pace Rating eFG TOV% ORB% FTR
ADMU 69.3 103.9 41.9% 10.4% 41.9% 22.1%
UP 69.3 92.4 40.1% 10.7% 31.3% 9.9%
Game Flow

Individual Offensive Rating

Reviewing the Keys to the Game

Attack the Rim

Attack the rim they did. Ateneo attempted 54.4% of their attempts near the rim (never mind that they made just 43.2% of them). That was right around UP’s season average (they allowed their opponents to shoot 54.9% near the rim). In fact, Ateneo had a lot of good looks inside born out of dribble handoffs and the Horns set. Newsome, in particular, was in top form, drawing two fouls on the defense and just continuously barraging through the hoop against Sam Marata’s non-existent defense. There were also a couple of nifty executions – including this awesome pass from my BFF (lol) Von Pessumal.

That’s a no-look skip pass, my friends.

 Push the Pace

Sometimes, possessions per 40 minutes can be deceiving. Look at the numbers above – the pace is really low (~69 possessions). However, looking closer, you’ll see that there were a lot of offensive rebounds, that usually pushes the “possessions” number down. So if you really want to know whether a game was actually a “slow, half court” type of game, you look at the pace (or possessions per 40) and the offensive rebounding rate. In this case, Ateneo did push the ball (on several occasions, in fact) with Newsome leading the charge. One of my favorites? One that finally sealed the game for good.

Ateneo did have 12 fast break attempts (and scoring 12 points). Their season average was 5.2 fastbreak attempts (scoring 7.6 points). Big fat check, my friends.

Finish Strong

Finish strong they did. With the exception of some Sam Marata heaves in the dying minutes of the game (when Ateneo was up by 15+ and with mostly third stringers in the game), Ateneo played really well in the second half. This didn’t matter as much as I thought because Ateneo dominated the first half, with a Nico Elorde corner three (YUM) at the end of the first half that put Ateneo up by eight. Ateneo would build on this lead and hold on to it (look at the Game Flow chart). I did get a little bit irritated by the fact that UP found a way to get it down to eight. But I’ll give it a pass for now since the third stringers haven’t played a lot this season.

Game Notes and Other Observations

1. I was very interested to see how Kiefer’s return would affect the entire system of Ateneo. Previously, we saw a lot of off-ball movements in our sets (doesn’t matter whether it’s from the Hawk or the Horns formation) and it worked beautifully. But Kiefer Ravena – you know, the wunderkid who was nursing a high ankle sprain – is one badass dude. He’s very proficient particularly in leakouts, on ball screens and most recently, in the post. Gist of it: Kiefer operates really well with the ball in his hands. How did Ateneo involve him?

Well, to be perfectly honest, Kiefer got most of his attempts all by his lonesome – no sort of prior action that would have helped him. That’s a good thing because in chaos time, the times when for some reason (the opposing team’s defense, mistimed passes or actions, etc.) the play just doesn’t work, Ateneo now has a weapon they can go too. Most of Kiefer’s postups were him simply overpowering and outwitting his opponent (most of the time, by going down the middle as if to sprint around screens, only to turn around, seal and postup his guy). Look at how Kiefer uses his low center of gravity (and big butt) to create postups out of thin air. This is akin to how Sir Charles Barkley created postup opportunities for himself.

Catch the ball. Turn around. Back your way down to the hoop.

There was a set involving a back screen that allowed Kiefer to get to his spot on the floor for a seal (see: fourth and ninth clip in the video).

That will be a big key for Ateneo because now they finally have more than one chaos time weapon – outside of those Buenafe postups or top of the key isolations, we now have Ravena postups (and probably wing-on-wing ball screens in the future). And if Ravena at 80 to 90% can operate this well in the post, I shudder at the idea of Kiefer at 100%. I mean seriously, look at this snapshot. Ball, Soyud, Lao and Wong adjusted their stance, their coverage and their attention to cover for Kiefer in the post. That kind of attention with Ateneo’s good off-ball scorers (Newsome, Tiongson) is deadly.

Ateneo

Photo Credit: ABS-CBN Sports/UAAP Sports TV

2. Outside of the Horns and Hawk sets, Ateneo’s added what appears to be a version of one of my favorite sets: a gate screen. The set Ateneo runs is simple – enter ball into Buenafe in the high post, Juami goes to set a double screen with Golla. Here’s a snapshot:

Ateneo

Photo Credit: ABS-CBN Sports/UAAP Sports TV

3. UP has a really hard time understanding the concept of “stunting” and “chucking.” Usually in a ball screen action, regardless of how you attack it (do you trap? do you zone off? do you go under?), “stunting” and “chucking” are very important parts of defending a ball screen. It’s a really simple but difficult task – someone has to impede the momentum and direction of the roll guy (from what I understand, either through a fake called a “stunt” or through an actual bump called “chucking”). Simple right? Well, Bradley Beal, in a conversation with the great Zach Lowe had this to say:

Off-ball is definitely harder than on-ball. Definitely. You have to chuck the big [Note: “Chuck” is NBA slang for bumping the roller in the paint] and then run back to your man. And you have to know whether or not your man can shoot, or if he’s gonna drive. And he’s at a standstill and your momentum is going forward, so he can drive by you. It’s really hard.

In a trapping scenario or in a “zone off” scenario, this is very important since the defense suddenly plays 4-on-3 (with one opponent getting the attention of two defenders). Usually, it’s the weak side corner that “chucks” the big man. In more complex sets (read: Chicago Bulls’ defense), they try to find ways to not concede that weakside corner (as it leaves them vulnerable as with the Heat).

[Editor’s Note: I highly suggest you follow Zach Lowe. One of the best writers you’ll ever find on basketball. I’ll save you the trouble and provide you with a link.]

4. UP’s inability to stunt/chuck the roll man was more evident because Ateneo was executing it most of the time. It was also very obvious because Ateneo trapped the ball hard on ball screens.

5. To further point no. 4 – Vince Tolentino is slowly growing on me. He’s quick, strong and smart. He’s aggressive in trapping the ballhandler and he’s quick enough to recover to his man. He also showed some nice finishes inside. I hope he can continue getting minutes and growing into his role. He’ll be huge for the Eagles this season.

6. Sam Marata is just … hahaha The amount of attention he gives on the offensive side is opposite of what he gives on defense – nothing. The guy continuously loses track of his man and has a lot of bad habits – not being aware of where a screen comes, ball watching, etc. I don’t know why he didn’t last in La Salle but this is probably one of the reasons.

In the end, Kiefer fixed a lot of our problems – lack of a chaos creator, leakout specialist and just a moral boost. Look for Coach Bo to continuously tweak his offense to integrate Kiefer’s massive skill set into the system. Goal now is to get healthy and ready for a big matchup against UST – a matchup that could well set how we start out the second round.

How about you, what are your thoughts?

Disclaimer: All videos and screen captures are courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports/UAAP