When they met for the first time this season, the UP Fighting Maroons and the UST Growling Tigers, to the surprise of almost everyone, were the only two remaining unbeaten teams in the league. Since that encounter where the Growling Tigers got the upper hand, they went on the opposite directions — UST remained at the upper echelon of the standings while UP came crashing down, collecting just a solitary win in six games since then.
The Fighting Maroons now faces a UST squad that is reeling from that painful setback against the Ateneo Blue Eagles early this week. As they gut it out with FEU for the top spot, the Growling Tigers cannot afford to drop this contest so expect them to be on their finest form. On the other hand, the Fighting Maroons are coming off a loss to the FEU Tamaraws, no thanks to a masterful fourth quarter performance by Mac Belo and some of his friends.
Defense won’t be lacking in this particular match as this features two of the better teams in terms of defensive rating with UST allowing only 83.9 points per 100 possessions which is good for third best in the league, while UP are just behind them with a defensive rating of 84.2 points per 100. As we have witnessed in their first round encounter, both teams are capable of limiting the offensive options of each other with their respective schemes on defense.
In order to stand a chance against the heavily favored Growling Tigers, UP must pay a ton of attention on Ed Daquiaog. It should be noted that it was Easy Ed who spelled the difference in their first round game as he annihilated UP’s defense in the fourth quarter. While Daquiaog can be a matchup headache for the Fighting Maroons, UST also have Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul and Louie Vigil who are capable of putting the team on their backs when needed.
As for the offense which has been a season-long problem by UP (they have the worst offensive rating this season with 76.9 points per 100), they cannot rely on one-on-one plays which we are seeing a lot recently. Paul Desiderio, the team’s best off-the-bounce creator, should not shoulder the load all the time. He’ll be needing support from the likes of Diego Dario, Jett Manuel and Pio Longa , three guys who have shown some flashes of brilliance on the offensive end this season.
|TV: LIVE ON ABS-CBN SPORTS AND ACTION|
|TIME: 4:00 PM|
|VENUE: MALL OF ASIA ARENA|