UST Growling Tigers and NU Bulldogs are all set for a winner take all match on Friday, September 27 for the right to be in the championship series of UAAP Season 76. It is important to note that the Tigers are now in their third straight do-or-die game. The main question now is – do they still have enough gas and cards left to survive yet another gruelling match against the top-seed Bulldogs?

I dare say that in terms of stamina the Growling Tigers can go at par with the Bulldogs. The four-day break is enough for both teams to rest, recover, and practice. With regards to cards left in their sleeves, we shall find out this Friday.   It can be said that the two teams share the same goal, which is to be in the finals. One of the things that separates the two teams are their motivation as to why they want to be in the championship series. Basically, UST wants to be back in the finals to get that championship trophy that slipped away last year. On the other hand, NU wants to end a 43-year drought of championship appearance. This match will then all boil down as to which team wants it more.

Keys of the Game

Bench Support

Having a closer look at the scoring distribution of the starters and bench players we can see that the starters of both teams cancelled each other out. It was the bench support that lifted the Tigers to extend the semi-finals series to this rubber match. All of the 10 players that was fielded by coach Pido Jarencio provided at least two points while only eight of the eleven players who played for NU were able contribute. The nine points advantage (UST: 24; NU: 15) of UST bench spelled the win for the Tigers.

UST Starters NU Starters
Players Score Players Score
Kevin Ferer 14 Bobby Ray Parks 14
Aljon Mariano 12 Joshua Alolino 17
Karim Abdul 7 Emmanuel Mbe 8
Sheak Sheriff 6 Maurice Porter 3
Jeric Teng 8 Dennice Villamor 5
Total 47 Total 47

In a well matched up starting line-up of these two teams any help coming from their shock troopers can make a difference in their upcoming winner take all match. Just like what happened in their first game, hopefully the Tigers supporting cast will again suit up and bring their A-game on Friday.

Rebounds

Rebounding is one of the barometer in determining a team who hustles more. In game one, the Tigers opened the quarter with one thing in mind – extend the series. This goal pushed the Tigers to play with a lot of intensity and this positive energy transpire to hustle plays of each the players.  Evidently the Tigers dominated the rebounding department, 49-37. And what caught my eye is the total rebounds of Sheak Sherriff. At any game that your point guard grab five rebounds and outrebounded Bobby Ray Parks says a lot to the effort that he gives. Although we cannot overlook the effort that the UST bigs are pouring in, the guards were able to snatch those rebounds because of the good boxing-out provided by the bigs.

I cannot highlight more as to how important the rebounding would be in this game. I’ve pointed out time and time again that rebounding brings a lot to the table. It gives you extra possession, extra chance of scoring a basket, prevent your opponent’s fastbreak attempts, and so much more. I know the Tigers knows this by heart, they need to continue what they are doing on the boards if they want to be back in the finals.

Fast Break Points

Fast break points killed the Bulldogs in game one. As expected the Bulldogs will implement changes and adjustment to address this issue. It is now up to the Tigers as to how they will respond. In connection to key point number two, as long as the Tigers are successful in controlling the rebounds they will still dominate this department.

Eduardo Daquioag fouled while finishing a fast break attempt (Photo Credit: Inboundpass)

Eduardo Daquioag fouled while finishing a fast break attempt (Photo Credit: Inboundpass)

Both teams have great open court players who can pushed the ball and finish on the break. The success in this key point will rely mainly on the ability of the players to secure the rebound and force a turnover. I am hoping that the long hands and pesky defense of the Tigers will again shine to have this key point marked check.

Prediction

These two teams are hungry and want to prove that they have what it takes to be called as champions. Knowing what at stake in this game, all the players will go all out to secure the finals slot. I’m banking on UST Growling Tigers’ final four experience. They’ve been here, they had conquered a twice to beat disadvantage before and eventually become champions in 2006. They surely have what it takes to beat NU. Their desire to finish the unfinished business last season will rise up and give the players extra push to win this one. UST in finals.