View from the Enemy: UST Growling Tigers
The Falcons have shown what they can do against the UP Fighting Maroons, their next game will be the acid test for them. Unlike the Maroons, the UST Growling Tigers were last season’s runners up and are among this season’s favorites to win it all. If the Falcons want their name to be placed in that very same competition, they will have to get past this hurdle first.
On Saturday afternoon, the Big Dome will play host to a clash of behemoths, both title hungry teams, UST not tasting UAAP gold since Coach Pido’s debut season while AdU since Hector Calma donned the blue and white (still not Ateneo) for his first collegiate year in 1976. Both teams have championship-caliber coaching, Coach Pido having tasted victory in the UAAP while Coach Austria leading a professional team to championship glory in the international league. It’s going to be a slobber knocker of a battle in the paint with Ingrid Sewa and Karim Abdul manning the post and it’s going to be a shootout with Jeric Teng on one side and Roider Cabrera at the other.
Adamson and UST have had many interesting matches in the past years, going to overtime twice in Season 73 and 74, this one won’t be an exemption to that.
Keys to the Game
1. Battle of the boards
Ingrid Sewa just made his UAAP debut for the Falcons with a double-double 15 points and 10 rebounds, but that was against a severely undersized frontline from UP. Karim Abdul, a perennial MVP candidate will most definitely test Sewa under the basket. While Sewa still has a slight size advantage over Abdul, the latter has the veteran smarts and experience to possibly toy with the giant rookie. Both Sewa and Abdul crashed 10 boards each in their previous games. Helping them under the paint will be (for Sewa) veteran center and all-around good-looking guy Rodney “the Energy man” Brondial, while Paulo Pe will be battling for rebounds on Abdul’s side. On their last games, Brondial was able to get nine rebounds while Pe got 12, the difference lay in the totals as the Falcons out-rebounded the Maroons 53 to 29 while the Tigers were out-rebounded by the Archers 52 to 44.
2. Walls for [_]Ericho
Since Cruz still doesn’t have his “J” and hit a total of ZERO jumpshots in the last game, you can bet he’ll continue to do what works, which for him was slashing. He went 50% from inside the arc last game and none of those he hit were jumpers, not even from the mid-range. This will pose a problem down the stretch as UST has big players in Abdul, Teng and Pe. His slashing will be halted by a tougher defense so he will eventually have to become Jericho once more if he is to become effective.
3. Protect the rock
The 22 turnovers they committed against UP might not have hurt them as much but UST has the ability to make them pay for those turnovers. UST is loaded with potent scorers, Teng who led them in their last game with La Salle scored 24 points without hitting a single three pointer will definitely try to replicate his performance. The rest of the UST team other than Abdul who was their most efficient scorer that game, will try to improve on their scoring. Protecting the rock and avoiding turnover points will be crucial in their next game. For sure, they aren’t going to win if they cough up 22 again.
4. Freethrows are FREE!
They’re called FREEthrows for a reason! Every point is going to count against UST as the Falcons will be in a tight battle with them come Saturday afternoon. The game will surely come down to the wire (if the Falcons can keep pace) so making their freethrows count is crucial. Anything under 60% from the team will put them in a lot of trouble.
5. Point guard hole!
The Falcons have a broad selection of point guards ranging from veterans Ryan Monteclaro, Ar-rauf Julkpli to rookies Axel Iñigo and Maui Bernabe. If they can find a way to exploit the fact that the Tigers don’t have the same luxury, the Falcons will be on their way to win number 2. So far, Julkipli has proven himself capable of running Coach Leo’s system, while reserve Maui Bernabe still needs to grow into his nerves and toughness. Iñigo on the other hand has proven he can create offense within and outside the system, finding the right cutters and making the right passes. This will play into their advantage if they can force a slower paced game which both teams need to setup their offense on the half court.
Battle of the Behemoths!
Karim Abdul of UST is huge and is an efficient force under the paint… so is Ingrid Sewa. While Abdul has made his mark in the league for years now, Sewa is still physically bigger than him (amazing when you think about how big Abdul already is). Their team’s success will rely mostly on who can dominate who in the paint. Should anyone of them have their way under the basket and clean house with relative ease, the other’s team is in big trouble. In their first games, Karim Abdul scored 17 points on an efficient 71% of his shots on 7 attempts, all while pulling down 10 rebounds; Sewa’s UAAP debut saw him grabbing the same number of rebounds, but shooting an even more efficient 75% on 8 shots for only 15 points. The difference? Abdul needed six minutes more than Sewa to get his numbers.
If the UP game was emotional, expect sparks to fly in this game against UST. This will be the first time the Soaring Falcons will really be tested as a team in the UAAP. The Falcons have already proven how good a team they can be against UP, on Saturday they will have a chance to prove why they deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with other title contenders this season. Falcons will claw and scratch their way to this victory.