For two and a half quarters, UP clearly performed beyond everyone’s expectations. But when La Salle decided to step on the gas pedal and go full throttle in the middle of third quarter, the Fighting Maroons provided little fightback and got left behind as the reigning kings of UAAP marched towards their seventh straight victory.
The Auspicious Start
The UP squad that showed up in this game was atypical of the one we have witnessed throughout this season. For one, there was a tweak in the starting lineup with rookie Gelo Vito manning the 5-spot while Mark Juruena, who usually mans the center position, sliding down to 4. Another change which took place was their deviation from their siganture 2-3 high offensive scheme. Vito, instead of being on the top of the key, was often located within few feet from the rim. Meanwhile, Juruena, the man who usually facilitates UP’s offense from high post on 2-3 high, was stationed mostly on the elbow.
These changes paid dividends for UP as they fought tooth and nail against the streaking Green Archers, very different from their first round encounter where they got blown off in the first quarter and never recovered. The Fighting Maroons found cracks on La Salle’s defense, allowing them to score easy baskets. Also, they capitalized from the boatload of turnovers La Salle committed in the first half. JR Gallarza, who struggled in their recent loss to UE, regained his shooting touch and waxed hot from downtown to steer the offense of UP. He also got some much-needed help from Dave Moralde and Henry Asilum, two guys who have been mired in offensive slump recently.
On defense, UP clogged the paint which reduced the clear advantage by La Salle’s massive frontline. Vito was able to limit Norbert Torres, while Jason Perkins had to earn majority of his points way outside the paint.
The Familiar Downfall
Unfortunately, this brilliant performance by UP would not last until the final buzzer of the game. Suddenly, the Green Archers found their groove in the middle of third quarter. Little by little, possession by possession, they pulled away and shut the door on UP. They pummeled the Fighting Maroons inside and out. Almond Vosotros instigated a three-point onslaught while Arnold Van Opstal, who sat out the last four DLSU games, decimated the UP’s defense inside. On the other hand, UP struggled from the field as La Salle’s defense mercilessly tightened up. Gallarza cooled off as he got checked out and defended well by a slew of DLSU defenders, even facing double teams in a number of possessions.
Reviewing the Keys to the Game
MORE TRIPS TO THE CHARITY STRIPE
Sadly, the Fighting Maroons only had a 13.7% free throw rate (10-19 FT) in this game, a shade below their season average of 14.6% which is the worst in the league. This can be attributed to two things: 1) UP resorted to take a ton of jumpshots, 61 in total (83.6% of all their field goal attempts), instead of taking shots at the rim. Of course, jumpshots are less likely to draw fouls. 2) In relation to the first point, La Salle only fouled 17 times, four below their season average.
CAN JERON BE TAMED?
While Jeron Teng‘s numbers in this game (15 points, 5-14 FG, six rebounds and 5 assists) were not as fantastic as those in his previous three games where he was seemingly unstoppable, his presence was nonetheless felt. He faced a number of UP defenders throughout this game, and he did one-up all of them in a variety of ways. He made a number of jumpshots while being guarded closely. He also barrelled his way to the paint, utilizing all his incredible physique, to make those one-hand shots within a few feet from the rim. He also dished the ball to his open teammates when he drew attention from several UP players. To sum it all up, Jeron was not tamed in this game and appears he won’t be in the foreseeable future.
Finally, Moralde has already woken up from a mini-hibernation. He was aggressive while he was on the court. Instead of settling for three-pointers (he had only had two attempts from downtown), he did attack towards the paint, which earned him a of and-ones. We can only hope that the worst for him is over as UP needs more options on offense.
It was a great showing by the Fighting Maroons up until early third quarter, but La Salle’s strength, experience and roster depth proved to be too much to handle. When they ignited, they were invincible. UP had no answers for their late game explosion. Gallarza, who had the hot hand in the first second half, struggled since and had gotten no help from other guys. And one guy who was badly missed in this game is reigning Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao. He was scoreless in this game as he got checked by Vostros, who is not really known for his defense. Hopefully, he ‘ll shake off this bad game and come up strongly in the last five games of the season.