View from the Enemy: UP Fighting Maroons

Survival versus Pride. This will be the theme of the match-up between UST Growling Tigers and UP Fighting Maroons on Saturday (September 7).  Coming off a thrilling double overtime win over FEU Tamaraws, the Tigers will try to further improve their chances of getting a ticket for the next round. On the other hand, with a winless record after 11 games, the Fighting Maroons are practically out of contention for Final Four and will be playing with the goal of winning at least one game for the season.

In the first round encounter of these two teams, the Tigers had to push themselves a little harder than expected before they were able to register their 13th straight win over the Maroons.  The seven year dominance of the Tigers was in peril as Joseph Marata got hot and shouldered the scoring production of Raul Soyud, who had to sit out of the game to serve a one-game suspension. Having known that UP can put up a good fight against the UST even without their big man, the Tigers cannot afford to take this game easily. They should keep their focus and go for the kill early on.

Keys of the Game

No Rebounds – No Rings (Pat Riley)

As of late, the Tigers have been doubling their efforts in crashing those boards, especially on the offensive end. In fact, they now rank as the second best rebounding team next to FEU with an average total rebound per game of 48.7 and 49.6, respectively. While UP can only average 38.4 total rebounds per game, a -10 rebounds compared to the Tigers.

Chris Ball and Kevin Ferrer jockeying for rebounding position (Photo Credit: Czeasar Dancel, NPPA Images)

Chris Ball and Kevin Ferrer jockeying for rebounding position (Photo Credit: Czeasar Dancel, NPPA Images)

In their first encounter, the Tigers won the rebounding battle offensively and defensively. Their 22 offensive rebounds resulted into  23 second chance points as compared to 20 offensive rebounds and 16 second chance points of the Fighting Maroons. That seven point advantage was a big part of their 79-69 win over the UP.

Offense sells tickets; Defense wins championships (Paul Bryant Jr.)

I guess Marata hasn’t stumbled on this quote just yet (peace). No question, Marata can score but his defensive lapses hurt his team. This is one thing that the Tigers can capitalize on. If he scores on you on the offensive side, make him pay on the other end. This will surely tire him and will in turn have an effect on his offensive production.

Inside Defense of the Tigers (Photo Credit: Czeasar Dancel, NPPA Images)

Inside Defense of the Tigers (Photo Credit: Czeasar Dancel, NPPA Images)

Aside from the individualistic point of view for this key point, team defense will play a major part. In the most recent game of the Tigers, they were able to beat the Tamaraws by playing excellent team defense. Man for man, the Tigers have the manpower to match up at every position against the Fighting Maroons. If the Tigers can impose their defensive prowess early on , they will surely crash any hope that the Fighting Maroons has.

Basketball is a Team Sport

To quote Mike Krzyzewski, “A basketball team is like the five fingers on your hand. If you can get them all together, you have a fist. That’s how I want you to play.” As mentioned, the Tigers have the personnel to match up with every single player of Fighting Maroons. The individualistic plays of the Fighting Maroons doesn’t help their cause. This will surely work wonders for the Tigers. Even worse for UP, UST has been playing good as a team. They’ve been dishing out an average of 15 assists per game, second highest in the league. Meanwhile, UP has to settle at the cellar with 10.2 assists per game.

Prediction

There’s a lot more at stake for the Tigers in this game. It is up to them if they will fold or rise up to the pressure of a do-or-die game. Hopefully they could carry on the momentum that they got from that nail biter win over FEU. Counting on the experience of the Tigers in games like these and their mastery over the Fighting Maroons over the last years, I’m predicting a win for them.

UST wins this one to keep their hopes of the Final Four.