View from the Enemy: UST Growling Tigers
We need a miracle, but more importantly a sweep.
Standing at 3-7, it will be impossible for the Falcons to make it to the Final Four if they lose another game, something that would be greatly shocking given the amount of improvement they have had since last season.
The sweep has to start against the Tigers.
There is no room for error anymore. They’ve had seven games to work out the flaws in their system and that early fourth quarter run against Ateneo is a prime example of how to run it.
Keys to the game
1. Pressure the shooters
UST is filled with shooters who can pick up their dribble, stare at you and suddenly knock it down. Nobody is safe to leave open from beyond the arc at any time. With Jeric Teng back from injury, though not in 100% form, the Tigers have yet another potent shooter to turn to when the going gets tough for them.
Having Sewa in the middle helps a lot when preventing inside scoring, but Abdul is also able to knock down the outside jumper, forcing Sewa out of the paint or possibly causing a mismatch. Adamson has to constantly pressure UST’s three-point attempts lest they become the victims of yet another three-point barrage.
2. Match Sewa with Abdul
The announcers love calling it a chess match whenever coaches sub players in and out in response to the other team’s rotations. In this case, it would be wise for Coach Leo to use Sewa sparingly on the floor and match him up with Karim Abdul.
Adamson is up against the league’s second best rebounder in Abdul who grabs an average 11.5 rebounds per game. The closest Adamson has to the league rebound leaders is Rodney Brondial with 10.1 rebounds a game. Keeping Sewa matched up with Abdul on the floor prevents Abdul from muscling his way around. Even if Sewa just stands there, that’s still quite a road block for Abdul to run through.
Limiting Sewa’s minutes is also necessary. The Cameroonian rookie, despite his enormous physique, is unable to stay productive for a full 40 minutes. For short, his production sours. Keeping him on the floor in shortened spurts keeps UST on their toes and unable to predict that Adamson is probably going to lob it into Sewa over and over again.
3. Spacing on the floor
UST has a roster filled with long players. From the point guard to the center spot, everyone can poke at passes and bother shots on the hedge. Correct spacing allows Adamson’s guards to operate well while their forwards get enough room to launch their shots. If they get stuck up again with Cabrera and Trollano both on the right wing, passing the ball back and forth to see who gets to shoot, they’ll be in big trouble.
Another effect correct spacing will have is that it gives players like Cruz and Rios enough room to drive. It requires a higher level of energy and alertness, but will result in forced one-on-one defense which Cruz can easily take advantage of. The Falcons will really want Cruz to keep attacking through the drive, because if he’s not making his shots, he’s getting free throws, which he now makes (yay!).
Oh, and it will also open Sewa up underneath the basket for lobs, and who doesn’t want that (4 for 4 FG against Ateneo)?
4. Be bullies
I’ve always described UST’s style of play as “bully-ball”. No, they don’t play dirty, but they’ll intimidate you into choking. With a roster filled with players who are practically all small forwards and do just about everything, it’s easy for them to intimidate conventional teams who have to rely on a balance of strengths and weaknesses to get by.
Adamson has to counter this by upping the production of so-called role players. This means the likes of Monteclaro, Julkipli, Agustin, Rios and Abrigo should not be afraid to hoist up shots they know they can make. In the last game against Ateneo, after going on a 19-2 run to start the fourth quarter, the Eagles were able to halt their production because they knew two things: 1) Cruz will score; 2) Cruz will pass it to Sewa. Had the ball moved around better and players like Monteclaro or Iñigo made their shots, the run could have gone on a little bit longer and it may have been a different contest.
There are a few Falcons who are definitely not afraid to let it fly, Petilos among one of them has the confidence to launch it from 30ft if he feels they need him to make the shot, though he averages only 2 attempts a game from long distance. They need a lot more of this if they’re going to open up the middle, so start bullying the Tigers and let it fly when they give you space, we know you can hit them.
It’s the end of the line if they lose this game and will be just another disappointing season for them. What was high championship hopes at the beginning are now prayers to at least make the Final Four.
With the seeding of other teams a force way beyond their own control, the Falcons can only focus on sweeping their remaining games starting with UST, a disturbing notion granted how hungry UST is for a win at this point.
Adamson still has the guns to beat any team, they just need to get it together. If they don’t, they’ll be singing to the tune of, “Could have, should have, would have.” While watching their rivals play the Final Four on TV.