After being down by as much as 11 in the first half, the defending champions didn’t easily give up as they mount a comeback, spanning the third and fourth quarters. Jjay Alejandro, who scored a game-high 22 points, hit four crucial free throws in the closing stages of regulation that put NU ahead, 72-70. But Ivan Villanueva had other things in mind as he made an uncontested basket off an inbound pass in the waning seconds that sent the game into overtime.
1. Surprisingly, NU posted an astonishing offensive rating of 96.72 points per 100 possessions, way above their average of 82.7, at an effective field goal rate of 43.04%. For a team that has really struggled all season long in terms of their offensive game, it is definitely a pleasant statistic. Usual suspects Alfred Aroga and Gelo Alolino once again carried the Bulldogs. They got a much-needed assistance from Alejandro who scored 12 of the last 18 points, including his gutsy three-point play that sealed the game.
2. Both teams did a fantastic job in terms of pounding the ball inside. The inside scoring battle was a very close one with Falcons having a slight edge, 44-42. It was a duel between two dominant big men in Aroga and Papi Sarr. Once again, Sarr delivered the goods for his squad as he mercilessly muscled his way against NU defenders, registering a career-high 32 points and 17 rebounds. On the other hand, Aroga posted with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Pretty sure, he did not mind he had a lower output than Sarr as he and the Bulldogs walked away with the win.
3. The Bulldogs got whacked in the rebounding department, 36-52, despite having a more solid frontline compared to Adamson. Luckily for NU, the Soaring Falcons failed to take advantage of it as they only converted four second chance points against the 11 of the Bulldogs.
JJay Alejandro to the Rescue!
Before the start of the season, I predicted that Alejandro will be a very essential cog in this team. He’s capable of playing the offguard and the small forward position. As the season goes on, unfortunately we never saw the player that he should be for NU. His previous season high was just 12 points against DLSU, their first game of Season 78.
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But in this game, Alejandro finally showed us his repertoire on offense. Looking at the numbers, he posted a ridiculous 124.6 ORTG. For him who had difficulty to find his stroke this season, it’s undeniable that he had a superb outing this time.
It was a sorry loss for Adamson. A questionable technical foul was slapped by the referee on Jerome Garcia due to second resentment to a call infraction late in the regulation. I felt the technical foul was dubious. Due to this incident, the Falcons lost the lead as Alejandro nailed his four free throws.
Coach Mike Fermin even clarified the situation that Garcia was speaking to him, and not to the referees. For Adamson faithfuls, whether it was the one who decided the game or not, they must look at the positive side of this game. Even without a key player in Joseph Nalos who was suspended due to the infamous Vince Tolentino incident, they battled valiantly until the end against the much favored NU squad.