Just a few hours before Gilas Pilipinas earned the world’s adulation after their hard-fought battle against Croatia in the 2014 FIBA World Championships, the UP Fighting Maroons, more than 12,000 kilometers away from Sevilla, pulled off a somewhat similar act in their heartbreaking loss to the league-leading FEU Tamaraws. The Fighting Maroons gutted it out, played well for forty minutes (something we did not see from them that much this season) and gave a good run for FEU’s money, but they just came up short in the end to pull off a major upset.
As Season 77 winds down, UP hopes to keep their good run rolling and bow out in style as they next face another top tier team, this time in Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles. In their previous encounter, the Fighting Maroons bowed down to their Katipunan neighbors, but not without putting up a valiant fight.
Keys to the Game
BETTER REBOUNDING EFFORT
The first time they met this season, UP allowed the Blue Eagles to clobber 47.5% of their own misses, which is definitely an unacceptable rate. Giving opponents extra possessions allows them to create more scoring opportunities. And against an offensive juggernaut like Ateneo, it is imperative not to give away extra possessions easily. As we all know by now, they have been outdoing their opposition this season through their superb offense, producing a league-best 99.5 points per 100 possessions. The Fighting Maroons have to come up with a better effort in clobbering those missed Ateneo shots, or else they will pay dearly. Hopefully, the great rebounding display by the UP frontline (Andrew Harris, Mark Juruena, and JR Gallarza) against FEU previously will continue in this game.
CHANGING OF GUARDS
After that game-long brilliance by the rookie point guard Diego Dario against FEU (100.5 ORTG, 15.1% USG, 50.0% TS), is it now time to give him the key to steer UP’s offense? His case should only further strengthened by the high usage yet inefficient game of fellow point guard Mikee Reyes (67.2 ORTG, 54.3% USG, 30.2% TS), who came off the bench for the first time this season to give way to him. Besides, thrusting Dario, a member of the Batang Gilas squad that just competed in the FIBA Under 17 Championships, into the starting lineup will only do huge favors for his development as he is touted to be the point guard of the future for the Fighting Maroons.
DEALING WITH KIEFER RAVENA
|KIEFER RAVENA STATS||PER||ORTG||USG%||AST%|
It is a requisite that discussions about the Blue Eagles this season begin and end with Kiefer Ravena. He has been the engine that powers this high-octane team as they try to reclaim the crown. The Phenom has been sensational and is hands down the UAAP Season 77 MVP as he delivers jaw-dropping numbers each and every game.
Having said these things, it will be interesting how UP will defend the seemingly unstoppable Kiefer Ravena. Would they put Moriah Gingerich, UP’s designated stopper, on him? Or will it be the pesky Dave Moralde, who has penchant for gambling to steal the ball? How about Gallarza, who has the size and strength to contest his high-arching perimeter shots?
I have a feeling that UP, like in their previous game, will cling on until the final buzzer sounded. But at the end of the contest, the Blue Eagles the clear-cut superior team, shall prevail. Ateneo wins by less than eight points.
Featured image courtesy of Pinoy Exchange