For the second consecutive year, the UP Fighting Maroons will open up their campaign against the season hosts as they will battle the UE Red Warriors on the opening salvo of Season 77 this July 12. The Fighting Maroons will try to halt their 21-game losing skid in the UAAP which dates back to Season 75. Coincidentally, the last team they had defeated are the Red Warriors in a 15-point blowout on August 19, 2012.
The two occasions these two teams have faced each other last season were pretty much close and thrilling (by UP’s standards). And those were perhaps the closest the Fighting Maroons ever were to grabbing a victory last season. However, late-game errors and poor executions in their first round encounter and the inability to contain the Red Warriors in the closing stages of their second round duel denied UP (not once, but twice) to barge into the win column in Season 76.
Keys to the Game
Take Mammie out of his game
It is unfortunate that UE center Charles Mammie will be the first big man that the thin frontline of UP will have to deal with this season. Of course, most of us know by now that he’s a rebounding machine (his rebounding splits last season: 23/28/25, and no one came reasonably close). And while he’s not really the shot blocker that you’d expect him to be (only 0.8 block per game), his presence in the interior is enough to intimidate opponents. Attest to that, only 42.6 percent of UE’s opponents’ field goal attempts last season were at the rim. On offense, he’s quite mobile for his size. He has some post moves but more often he relies on scoring baskets from the tons of offensive rebounds he collects.
With these being said about Mammie, the frontline will have to contain him as a committee. They have to make him work on both ends of the court. On offense, UP’s big guys like Martin Pascual and Mark Juruena, who have decent touch from the outside, can present unusual matchup against him. By taking him far and way out of the post, it will offset the size advantage that he presents to the small UP lineup. The rebounding battle will be lot easier for UP when Mammie is way out of his comfort zone. On the other end, relentless guys like JR Gallarza and Andrew Harris shall be tasked to defend him. Mammie has a tendency to get agitated whenever his defenders get physical on him. And this could affect him in a negative way and do wonders for the Fighting Maroons.
One of UE’s major issues this season is their depth. They have a talented core in Roi Sumang, Mammie, Moustaph Arafat, Gino Jumao-as, and Dan Alberto. After that, the team appears shallow on talent. So matchup-wise, UP’s bench might have a fair chance to outperform their UE counterparts. With the likes of Henry Asilum, Diego Dario, Juruena and Gelo Vito from the bench, the Fighting Maroons have enough firepower to collect some points while the starters are taking a breather.
More Trips to the Foul Line
Last season, UP was last in free throw attempts as they only tooj 14.8 per contest. But in the two close games against UE, they averaged 23.5 attempts, a significant increase from their season average. They can only take more free throws if they will be more aggressive and attack towards the basket more often. Other than Mammie, I don’t see any UE bigman that is intimidating enough for the Fighting Maroons not to attack inside.
Just like the UP versus UE games before, this will be very exciting to watch. This will be a close affair. However, UP might not withstand the troika of Sumang-Mammie-Arafat (though the latter two can’t play at the same time) in the end. The losing streak extends to 22 games.