Coming off a tough loss against the title favorites De La Salle Green Archers, the NU Bulldogs will try to bounce back and regain their winning momentum as they battle the pesky Adamson Falcons.
The Bulldogs should be wary of this new version of Falcons. After finishing as one of last season’s bottom-feeders, they are now a game away from matching their Season 78 wins total.
Adamson’s last game against Ateneo was evidence that this Franz Pumaren-led team has improved dramatically from last year’s incarnation, particularly in crunch time. With four seconds to go, the Blue Eagles were clinging to a precarious one-point lead. New head coach Franz Pumaren went all-in on his team captain Dawn Ochea for the game-winner. And despite having sat on the bench since early in the third with four fouls, Ochea delivered, converting the most important basket of his career to date, over the outstretched arms of Vince Tolentino.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs couldn’t contain the Green Archers for the entire game. Jeron Teng was steady in the fourth quarter anew, when he shrugged off four fouls to fire eight of his game-high 23 points in the last seven minutes of the game. Ben Mbala continued to be a force, posting 16 markers and 15 boards while overwhelming his NU counterpart Alfred Aroga, who scored only two points and turned the ball over seven times.
What happened last season?
In Season 78, the Bulldogs dominated the Falcons, sweeping the two games they battled each other. In round one, NU ran away with an easy 75-54 victory. True to their form as a defensive demon, the Sampaloc-based squad clamped down on defense and held their opponents to a putrid 35.5 eFG%.
Come the second round, NU continued their mastery over Adamson, but this time, it wasn’t a walk in the park. Papi Sarr played his best game of the season and dominated the paint by tallying 32 points and 17 rebounds. Unfortunately, it was all for naught as NU still prevailed, 85-79.
Keys To Winning
The Bulldogs struggled mightily versus DLSU coach Aldin Ayo’s “mayhem” press, and right away, they’ll be facing another press in the form of ADU coach Franz Pumaren’s creation. Versus the Green Archers, NU turned the ball over 28 times, and their execution on offense struggled mightily, especially in the fourth quarter, when the Archers closed on a 13-5 salvo. National U.’s guards, guys like JJ Alejandro and Rev Diputado, must find a way to get the ball across half-court quickly, to give them enough time to run their offense.
Speaking of offense, Alfred Aroga must reassert his old form against Adamson’s front line, led by Papi Sarr. The Cameroonian had a disappointing performance in their last outing. When DLSU used a zone in the fourth, the Bulldogs were often content to give it to Aroga, who’d drive into the teeth of the D and turn the ball over. With reports of an ankle injury holding him back, the Bulldogs must get him the ball where he feels most comfortable, instead of tasking him to create for himself and the team.
Both teams face a daunting task on Wednesday. The two sides have matching 2-1 records, and of course, Final Four aspirations. A win would create some much-needed separation, and perhaps most importantly, put them in solo second place, behind only the Green Archers.
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