View from the Enemy: Ateneo Blue Eagles

The University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons will continue their quest for a win, which appears to be as elusive as Yamashita treasure, as they open their second round account of Season 76 against neighbors Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles on August 15 at Mall of Asia Arena.

UP finished the first round without a win, and are currently sitting at least three games behind everybody else in the standings; meanwhile, Ateneo is stuck in a logjam at the middle with 3-4 win-loss card. In their first round encounter, the Blue Eagles got the upper hand, eking out a 72-64 victory.

By the Numbers: Explaining UP’s woes

UP

Please make this game possible. (https://twitter.com/brilums)

In case you’re wondering how come UP hasn’t register a win this season, let me give you some cold-blooded facts. The Fighting Maroons are sporting a -14.9  points per 100 possessions, which is the far worst among the eight teams. Offense-wise, they are scoring 86.8 points per 100 possessions, which is good for eighth among eight teams. They are shooting a league-low 38.7  effective field goal percent. Their offense is pretty much perimeter-based (or perimeter-settling, depends which you prefer) which underscored by the fact that they took 23.6 three-pointers per contest, second behind the scorching FEU Tamaraws; however, they are only converting 26.1% of those.  Add to their misery in offense is that they take very few free throws (13.3% free throw rate).

Jason Ligad is taking 4.9 threes per game, yet he only makes 18% of those. (Photo Credit: Pinoy Exchange)

Jason Ligad (center) took 4.9 threes per game this season but only 18% went in. (Photo Credit: Pinoy Exchange)

And their defense? On the average, UP is allowing their opponents a ginormous 101.2 points per 100 possessions. Not to everyone’s surprise, that is the highest in this league. They are the worst rebounding team (rebounding splits of 35/55/46). Opponents certainly do not fall onto their defensive scheme and do not settle for those long three-pointers with UP allowing them only 15.9 triples per contest with an above-average conversion rate of 30.3%. They are also able to get to the foul line frequently (23.0% free throw rate).

Relatively, we are not really as bad as the Malaysian national team. We are not being blown up by our opponents by 90 points. Despite the horrible numbers I threw in, UP are performing better as of late. We are showing signs of competency, as seen on their last two games against UST and UE. With the two-week break, we can only hope that the Fighting Maroons have able to fine tune their game on both ends of the court.

Keys to the Game

1. Take it slow

Ateneo are +6.3 on fastbreak points in their three wins and -0.25 in four losses. Meanwhile, UP are -5.6 on  in wins and losses this season. These numbers only point us that we have to play this game in a slow pace. We have to execute our halfcourt sets. We cannot afford to play an uptempo game with them because a) we have Raul Soyud, and b) they have Chris Newsome.

2. Capitalize on turnovers

There were only 17 turnovers combined by the two teams in their round 1 duel. That is a pretty good number. From these 17 turnovers, 14 points were scored. That is not good but not bad either. Out of the 14 points off turnovers, 0 came from UP, 14 were from ADMU. That is super bad. We have to make the most out of the extra possessions given to us.

3. Share the ball

In their previous meeting, UP registered a season-low eight assists, which only proves that there was lack of ball distribution. Joseph Marata was handling the ball too much in that game as he used 35.7% of the team plays while he was on the floor. It would better served the Fighting Maroons if they do not rely on him to facilitate the offense. Playmaking duties should be done by our point guards. It is an encouraging sign that Henry Asilum, the supposed main playmaker after the departure of Mikee Reyes, has been playing decently as of late (aside from the last two minutes against UE).

Key Matchup

Kyles Lao vs Kiefer Ravena

In their first encounter (Photo Credit:

Free Kyles Lao! (Photo Credit: Luis Adrian Hidalgo, Tinig ng Plaridel)

Season 76 Stats PPG True Shoooting Usage Rate Turnover Rate MPG
Kyles Lao 8.3 53.2% 20.9% 18.0% 19.7
Kiefer Ravena 9.0 39.4% 29.5% 16.1% 21.0

In his third game back from an ankle injury, Kiefer Ravena showed signs of his true old form as he poured season-high 15 points in their first round encounter against UP. He was seemingly aggressive on scoring close to the basket as he keep on posting up against his defenders. With a lengthy break, it will be interesting to see if Ravena is already back to his old groove.

On the other side of the matchup is the leading candidate for Rookie of the Year honors — Kyles Lao. For sure, I am not the only one who is puzzled by the up-and-down playing time being allocated to him. More time for Kyles  is a win-win thing for him and the team. It will help his development as a player. At the same time, he can provide UP some much-needed scoring who loves slashing through the paint. He is the anti-UP guard. He does not take triples willfully unlike Henry Asilum and Jason Ligad. He does not resort to low-percentage perimeter shots. He prefers taking the ball inside and fishing some fouls. He is fearless and has high basketball IQ. Free Kyles Lao!

Prediction

With a healthier and well-rested Ravena and Ryan Buenafe, things don’t augur well for UP. Expect both teams will be a little bit rusty as they have not played competitve basketball for some time. This should favor the Fighting Maroons as they love engaging in ugly games. . Expect good numbers from UP ‘s frontline Raul Soyud and Chris Ball. I honestly think they can, and they will outdo their Ateneo counterparts. However, the triumvirate of Ravena, Buenafe and Newsome will be more than enough to carry the Blue Eagles to their third straight victory.