View from the Enemy: NU Bulldogs
As the saying goes, bad things come in threes. Hopefully, this applies to the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons as they attempt to snap their three-game skid to open the season when they face the National University Bulldogs on July 14 at MOA Arena.
UP is coming off an 18-point blowout loss at the hands of FEU Tamaraws, 57-75, last July 7. Meanwhile, NU emerged victors in their last outing as they held off erstwhile unbeaten UST Growling Tigers, 71-67, last July 10.
The Fighting Maroons struggled offensively in that game against FEU, converting only 29% of their field goal attempts including a dismal 2-25 (8%) shooting at the three-point territory. Team’s leading scorer Joseph Marata, who was suffering an ankle injury, managed to score only 4 points on 1-8 FG shooting. Only Raul Soyud managed to score in double figures with 10.
History tells UP are the clear underdogs in this matchup as they lost to NU for six consecutive games. UP’s last win against NU came last August 15, 2009. (Trivia: Moriah Gingerich is the only remaining player of the UP squad that last defeated the Bulldogs.)
Keys to the Game
Free Kyles Lao
The rotation of players last game was puzzling. It gave FEU the opportunity to run away early on the game. Marata, the primary scoring option, is struggling with his shots early on. The most logical thing to do is put on the second best offensive option, which I think is Kyles Lao. But stranger things had happened. Lao only made it to the playing court on second quarter for a few minutes and he did not enter again until the fourth quarter. I really don’t know what’s inside the minds of the coaching staff during that time. Julius Wong, who returned to the starting lineup to replace Lao, was horrible on both sides. He can’t make those corner jumpers. He can’t defend the guards of FEU. And it didn’t help UP that he had 38% turnover rate on that game. Yikes.
You have to take your chances with Lao. You have to get him in. His basketball IQ is too high not to be given enough playing time. Even though he is small and not really that able on the defensive side, he can provide the offensive spark that others cannot provide. As regards to Wong, get him in the doghouse. I think Kyle Suarez is a much better wing player than him. He is quicker and more athletic. Give him more time as well.
Get those rebounds like they did against FEU
Against FEU, UP had their best rebounding game as a team this season as they managed to clobber 35.9% of the available offensive rebounds. Chris Ball went on a rebounding spree as he finished the game with rebounding splits of 19/32/25. Soyud, Gingerich and JR Gallarza contributed significant rebounds as well. In order to stand a chance to win against NU, they have to continue their team effort in rebounding the ball. They’ll have to battle against NU’s slotman Emmanuel Mbe who has a rebounding splits of 16/19/18. With the absence of Alfred Aroga, NU’s frontcourt is thin so UP should capitalize from that advantage.
Less threes please
For now, UP is living and dying with the three pointers. They managed to keep at bay with DLSU, thanks to their 14-28 3PT shooting. As I have said before , it is simply not possible to convert half of your three-point attempts every game. Attesting to that is their 2-25 3PT shooting versus FEU. In those 25 3PT attempts, I can remember that there are at least ten shots that were contested. So it is safe to say that sometimes they do not take the best shot available.
They have to take the game inside the three-point line. Treat the three-point area like love. Too much of it can kill you. (Pardon me. Please don’t close the tab.)
Joseph Marata vs. Bobby Ray Parks
Parks showed everyone that his terrible outing against UE was just a hiccup as he bounced back against UST in an all-around effort with 20 points, six rebounds and six assists. Marata would like to do the same bounce back game after that four-point effort versus FEU. Expect that these two primary offensive weapons will guard each other from time to time.
No UP player has the physical tools and defensive intensity to match up with Bobby Ray Parks so we are expecting a big game from the two-time reigning Most Valuable Player. If UP can connect the three-point shots they love to take, this game will be close, that is within 10-15 point margin (Yes, that is close by UP’s standards.). If not, this game might be over at the end of second quarter. Do not be surprised if the Fighting Maroons unload another huge-but-not-enough run late in the third quarter and early in the fourth quarter. That is their specialty. They have done that over and over again.