The Ateneo Blue Eagles opened this season with a promising 3-0 record, after starting with 0-3 last year. The National University Bulldogs, on the other hand, dealt with their first loss in a close game against La Salle last Sunday.
How can Ateneo extend their winning streak? Let’s look at some of the numbers and discuss.
Keys to the Game
Ateneo will once again be the undersized team in this match. In their past games, the pressure defense employed by the Blue Eagles has worked. They should continue limiting their opponent’s ballhandlers and force them to rush their plays or to commit turnovers. Bully and outrun them from the backcourt down to the paint and wear the much slower Bulldogs down.
The Eagles may be the league’s top offensive team, scoring 109.3 points per 100 possessions, but they will be up against the league’s top defensive squad, allowing only 73.2 points per 100 possessions. Ateneo has been doing well in terms of spreading the floor out and moving the ball around (average of 15 assists per game) although I believe they can still improve on this. Mix up their plays a bit and try to draw the Bulldogs’ frontline away from the basket. Hopefully they get more production from the bench too.
TRIPS TO THE CHARITY STRIPE
There’s a striking difference between the free throw rates of these two teams. Ateneo averaged 25 free throw attempts in three outings, compared to NU’s 11.3. The Bulldogs’ FTR of 9.1 percent is way below the league average of 18.4 percent. Meanwhile, Ateneo is second highest in the league (next to Adamson). The Blue Eagles should continue to capitalize on their ability to troop to the line, produce as much points as they can from it, and consequently get NU’s big men into foul trouble.
If Ateneo can set the tempo and push NU to run their pace, they can end this week with four straight wins.
Featured Image courtesy of KC Cruz,GMA News)