FEU Tamaraws def. UP Fighting Maroons 82-79
Kenneth Tuffin (18 points, 5 rebounds) and Wendell Comboy (10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists)
FEU wouldn’t have escaped with the win if not for the heroics of Tuffin and Comboy. Tuffin was fantastic throughout, hitting all but one of his six three-point attempts. None were bigger than the two he hit in the fourth quarter and overtime to help seal the win. As for Comboy, he wasn’t much of a factor in the first 40 minutes, even missing a potential game winner in regulation. But he more than made up for it by making sure to hit the three that would eventually win the game for the Tamaraws.
LJ Gonzales (17 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists)
Gonzales once again stuffed the statsheet and set the tone early on for FEU, scoring eight points in the first quarter alone helping them to a fast 18-5 advantage. He carved up UP’s non-existent defense for some easy layups and kickout passes possession after possession. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good as he almost cost his team with his careless ballhandling, turning it over six times which helped fuel UP’s fastbreaks. Luckily, his teammates covered for him but he’ll need to tighten that up with how much he handles the ball if he wants to take the Tamaraws far.
Pat Tchuente (14 points, 11 rebounds)
Tchuente’s season has been a bit erratic to say the least. He’d look good one game then completely bad the next. But luckily in this one, he was a steady presence that FEU has been missing since Prince Orizu’s departure. He held his own against the reigning MVP, using his length well to score over him on multiple occasions. He was a crucial part of that third quarter explosion by making himself an easy target for drop passes, going a perfect seven of seven from the field up to that point. That’s the kind of play the Tamaraws have been looking for.
Kobe Paras (22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 steals)
It wasn’t just LJ Gonzales who had himself a fantastic first quarter. Paras made it a bit of a duel as his 13 points in the first half helped his squad recover from an early double-digit deficit. It was probably his most impressive scoring performance to date, able to finish inside the paint and not just rely on getting to the line. His Bright-like ability to poke balls away from FEU’s guards was the most notable part as all of them led to easy transition points for UP. It was also a factor in the fourth quarter which made them think twice, hesitate and make mistakes over and over.
- FEU really needs more consistency if they want that final four slot. They went scoreless for long stretches multiple times, including after going up 18-5 and towards the end of the fourth period when UP went on a 16-0 tear and almost stole the game. Those moments were marred with a ton of hesitation, pointless plays and a boatload of turnovers. They coughed it up 26 times, which is way too much and almost mitigated their great shooting night, hitting 11 of 19 from deep. They should just take a look at what they did really well in the third quarter: driving and using ball screens with purpose, kicking it out to the open shooter and dropping passes to Tchuente after attracting the defense. They just need more discipline and purpose and less careless ballhandling.
- Speaking of offense, UP’s is still a train wreck. They started Juan Gomez de Llano for the first time this season but that didn’t seem to change anything owing to the slow start. It was still much of the same isolation plays. The only reason they got even remotely close to stealing the game was the absurd amount of turnovers they forced leading to 35 points off turnovers, most of them on fast breaks. That and Bright Akhuetie being dominant on the offensive glass with seven boards, giving them even more opportunities to score the basketball. Aside from that, it was the usual bad scoring day shooting just 37% from the field and 21% from deep. It might serve them well to remember that Bright is the reigning MVP for a reason. He’s proven that time and time again with a lot of clutch baskets. He’s someone they can play through in the post instead of trying to force stuff from the perimeter. And maybe try to go to him at the start of games instead of waiting for a large deficit to do it.
- Again, a lot has been made about UP’s poor offense and lack of an offensive system. But it’s even more apparent defensively. Their perimeter defense was extremely soft as Gonzales and company would repeatedly blow by their man. It’s come to the point that if Kobe or whichever wing can’t poke the ball away, the opposing player would have an easy time going to the rim. Compound that with the complete lack of help defense and they get an open lane time and time again. They can’t let FEU’s guards making Kobe and the rest of the Maroons looking like the defensive players of the year overshadow how much they’re lacking on that end. This is arguably their most pressing concern if they really want to be on Ateneo’s level.