View from the Enemy: UP Fighting Maroons


I cannot overstate how important this game is. This is a must win.

And yes, I am saying that a game against the UP Fighting Maroons, a perennial bottom feeder, is a must win.

Ateneo lost its fifth game out of four outings, unable to box Mammie out of the paint wasting a lot of the misses they forced.

No worries, UP is a horrible rebounding team. They rebound fewer offensive rebounds than us and they allow more offensive rebounds than us. Yay! Does that mean this is going to be a cake walk? Not really. No team is a cake walk, even if it’s UP. Any team can pounce on you if you play bad. And Ateneo – stuck in a 1-4 rut right now – can’t afford to have any let downs.

Ateneo’s welcomed more and more minutes from its star guard Kiefer Ravena. He got a big minutes bump, playing almost 24 minutes against UE compared to the 11 minutes he played against Adamson. Is he finally ready to take back the court full time? We’ll see. Until I see him string together consistently good production, I’m going to assume that he’s not 100% and I’ll again assume that he won’t play a big part (just to ere on the safe side).

What’s more, Ryan Buenafe suffered an ankle sprain against UE (that probably cost as the game). Can he play to his usual self? Ateneo getting more questions than they can answer.

Keys to the Game

Attack the Rim

Up until this year, Ateneo had players that were a presence in the post who anchored the entire offensive system around them – Slaughter, Salva, Al-Hussaini, Arao (yes, I remember him). This year, our only post presence is Golla (chuckle) and Erram – both are not threats at all when they back down. Therefore, the key is to attack from the perimeter – a much harder task, I’m sure.

This is where Coach Bo’s system comes in – would love to see more handoff action between Buenafe and Newsome. Newsome’s is our best finisher inside. The problem is how to get him there. He struggles dribbling (a big reason why his turnover rate is 20%) and he doesn’t have an advanced set of dribble moves that can help him juke his way to the basket. I hope Coach Bo has a couple more tricks up his sleeve.

Ateneo is attempting the LEAST amount of their shots near the rim – just 39.6%. If we go by ranking, the distribution is right – 39.6% of our shots are near the rim, 34.4% come from the three point line. The problem is that the league average for percentage shots near the rim is 46%. The good news? UP allows their opponents to take 54.9% of their shots near the rim (top in the league) and allows them to shoot 52.6% from that distance (3rd worst in the league). Maybe for one game, Ateneo can find it within themselves to attack the paint.

Push the Pace

Up to this point, Ateneo’s been a halfcourt team. Due to the lack of a player who can push the pace in transition and be a threat from midrange, to attack the paint and make the right pass (WE MISS YOU KIEFER), Ateneo’s been relegated to executing their (wonderful) sets. They’ve added tons of motion and actions in the very basic (but powerful) Hawk set formation.

Ateneo

Newsome is a really great finisher for his size (Photo Credit: Arvin Lim, Fabilioh)

But they have the potential to do this. Newsome, in particular, can excel in this. He’s a decent defensive rebounder (16.1% defensive rebounding rate) and his dribbling is decent enough that he can take it coast-to-coast himself. UP’s been awful at preventing fastbreaks, allowing teams to score 14.5 fastbreak points on just 8.5 attempts. Maybe, just maybe, with UP’s horrible rebounding and inability to get back on defense, Ateneo can finally push the pace.

Finish Strong

Will you believe me if I said that UP only loses, on average, by just 0.4 points? Meanwhile, Ateneo breaks even at the half. So this game isn’t won or lost at the start of the game (not saying that it’s not important!). Rather, it’s about the adjustments coming out of the locker room. Both teams lose by a big margin in the second half (Ateneo loses by an average of 2.2 points while UP loses the second by an average 3.5).

Coach Bo isn’t a man who doesn’t like adjustments – he’s just not too keen on continuously adjusting to the opponent. He’d rather force you to play his game rather than matchup to yours. Luckily for Coach Bo, UP plays a lot similar to Ateneo – a lot of shot creation in the perimeter. So Coach doesn’t have to answer the question “Do I go big or go small?” he can just focus on winning using what he’s comfortable with.

Prediction

Ateneo wins this one. Squeamish about that prediction because I’ve been wrong on a lot of my predictions. But Ateneo has the perimeter defenders to shut down Marata and Lao (UP’s top two shot creators) and they play almost the same style. One team will sink to the bottom of the standings, who will it be?