This season, the UAAP opted to hold three games on Wednesdays in the hopes of giving way for the 2019 SEA Games that will be held in the country. It’s a noble reason, but the effects of the schedule has made it overwhelming for fans to consume all of these games. It’s a lot to take in, especially in a season as quick as the UAAP.
Every detail matters, but sometimes you just need the important ones to get you through. Let’s go through the games yesterday:
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. UST Growling Tigers 71-70
Who impressed: After a terrible first three quarters, Ange Kouame (11 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks) blew up when it mattered most in the final period. His nine points in the quarter were pretty much all hustle points. He scored on the break and used his superior size to dominate the offensive boards. He looked rattled going up against Soulemane Chabi Yo’s unique blend of skill and athleticism until he seemingly remembered that he was still a seven-foot behemoth that towered over everyone. It’s games like this that show how much he has grown.
How did the game go: There was a ton of back and forth action. UST took the early lead until Ateneo came roaring back thanks to five threes in the first quarter. That big run would usually be enough to take out the opposition but not these Growling Tigers. They made a counter run of their own to take the halftime lead. They didn’t look fazed at all even when the Blue Eagles turned up the pressure on defense. From there, it was more back and forth action until the few minutes of the fourth when both offenses dried up, traded misses and it turned into a grind-it-out affair. Eventually, Ateneo hit enough free throws to eek out the victory.
What to look forward to: It was nice to see Ateneo break out of their shooting slump somewhat as they hit 10/38 threes. The concern going forward is definitely an over reliance on those bailing them out, which almost cost them in the final period. But it’s pretty clear that defense is still their calling card. They did a masterful job in this one jumping passing lanes and blindsiding UST’s ball handlers to generate fast break points.
For UST, this was an early litmus test against the two-time defending champs and they definitely passed with flying colors despite not getting the win. As pointed out earlier, they took Ateneo’s punches and countered with their own. They didn’t let their youth get in the way as they stayed disciplined throughout the game despite facing a much more experienced squad. Soulemane Chabi Yo will continue to be a problem for the rest of the league as he can keep up defensively while being a big mismatch on the other end. Coach Aldin Ayo is continuing to build something special here.
DLSU Green Archers def. NU Bulldogs 84-83
Who impressed: Shaun Ildefonso (26 points, two rebounds, five steals) was probably the most surprising development yesterday. With brother Dave Ildefonso struggling with his shot, Shaun gladly picked up the scoring slack, hitting four of his nine attempts from deep. More importantly, it was his hustle in the last three minutes of the game to cut down DLSU’s big lead that was admirable. He forced turnovers, dived for loose balls and hit crucial threes, none bigger than the one he hit in the last 30 seconds to give NU their first and final lead of the game. It should’ve been his moment until, much like his brother the game before, an opposing player ripped it away in the dying seconds. Despite the loss, the passion he displayed was amazing.
How did the game go: From the opening tip, DLSU outclassed NU with how they ran their offense – lots of movement, crisp passing and taking advantage of mismatches. The Bulldogs threatend with runs of their own but for much of the game, the Green Archers simply dominated. Of course, it turned into a wild finish. They built their biggest lead of 19 early in the fourth quarter and looked to cruise to an easy victory. But NU had other plans as they were relentless in forcing turnovers and hitting triples, getting the lead down to four inside two minutes remaining until finally taking the lead before Kurt Lojera made the eventual gamewinner. For NU, they just ran out of time while for DLSU, it was a sigh of relief.
What to look forward to: The Green Archers showed a lot of potential offensively in spurts against Ateneo and they put it on full display here. They were a mystery going into the season but we can safely say that active consultant Jermaine Byrd is building something good here. Their endgame execution continues to be a concern though. Bad passes and careless turnovers doomed their comeback attempt against the Blue Eagles and it cost them again. It’s something they’ll need to tweak if they want to make serious waves in the final four race.
For NU, it’s going to be tough to recover from a back-to-back heart breakers, especially with the youth on the squad. It can either break a team or make them tougher, hopefully the latter happens for them. At the very least, they showed what they could do when they turn up the pressure on defense and just run. For Coach Jamike Jarin, he has a conundrum on his hands with how offense looked better going small with no true center on the court. It certainly doesn’t help that Issa Gaye hasn’t looked good to start the season. In coach Jamike’s third year with the team, he may need to think about speeding up the game instead of slowing down and trying to out-execute opponents.
Adamson Soaring Falcons def. UE Red Warriors 91-80
Who impressed: Jerrick Ahanmisi (28 points, four assists, two blocks) finally broke out of shooting slump, tying his career high after scoring in single digits the first two games. He was crucial in jumpstarting a struggling Adamson offense in the second quarter where he tallied 11 points, pushed the pace and even got a couple of nice assists on the break. He’s always been a streaky shooter but with the exit of guys like Sean Manganti, it’s more important than ever for him to score more consistently for his team. Hopefully, this is the start of that.
How did the game go: UE probably surprised everyone by having John Apacible go at Lenda Douanga in the post early on. And even more surprising was how much it worked as it helped them develop a good rhythm offensively. Adamson had to rely on hustle points to tide them over until the second quarter when Ahanmisi finally regained his shot. The Red Warriors had one last gasp to take the lead early in the third period but Adamson’s superiority eventually won out. Ahanmisi and Jerom Lastimosa finished things off while UE just couldn’t find consistent scoring outside of Rey Suerte to keep up.
What to look forward to: For Adamson, it’s just a relief that both Ahanmisi and Lastimosa (eight of his 14 points in the fourth) finally broke out of their shooting slumps to build their win streak. Their offense just looks a lot better when at least one of them is hitting their shots. That will probably continue to be their concern going forward. Can they score consistently enough to go along with their choking defense?
For UE, they just need to continue to chug along and look at what they did right in the first quarter. They got the drop on the Falcons and actually looked like the better team at times, especially with their offense. Rey Suerte continues to be amazing for them but they’ll need to find other more consistent options to support him eventually. They probably don’t want another Alvin Pasaol who does everything for them.