Welcome to this season’s first edition of Humblebola’s Thursday Quickbites! This is a new column here on the site, but we promise, it’s a simple piece to read with plenty of substance in it.
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. With that, for our first edition, we talk about the three opening day games:
UST Growling Tigers def. UE Red Warriors 95-82
Who impressed: Rhenz Abando (22 points, four rebounds, three assists, two steals) finally made his UAAP debut and it was one worth remembering. Versus UE, he showed he’s more than the hops he’s been associated with ever since he blocked Kobe Paras during the preseason. He showed a lot of skill, putting on a show with a blend of aggressive and smooth attacks. Granted, some will argue it’s just UE and the start of the season isn’t a good indicator of how good a player will be down the line (just ask Michael Carter-Williams). But either way, Thomasians have to be pleased with Abando’s emergence, adding more talent to a team that’s slowly coming together as an Aldin Ayo team.
How did the game go: It felt quite sloppy at times, which is normal for any first game of teams in the UAAP. Slowly but surely, UST and UE picked up the slack and started to play high quality basketball. Particularly surprising was UE, who despite the issues swirling around the team, put on an inspired performance despite a depleted lineup. Rey Suerte had some great moments for them, while Alex Diakhite showed dominance in the post not seen from UE since Charles Mammie. But at the end of the day, UST’s firepower and depth prevailed as multiple players chipped in to seal the win for the Growling Tigers.
What to look forward to: For UE, at least they have hope that they can compete versus other teams. There’s talent — albeit raw — in this group and it would be a waste if it isn’t utilized properly for the sake of UE’s basketball program. The Final Four is their goal, yes, but they shouldn’t allow not reaching this goal hinder their growth. Just giving their young guys the chance to make mistakes is already a win in itself. Errors will eventually turn into glory with experience.
For UST, it still feels like the team could do more. Most glaring were the abundance of three-point attempt as they attempted more than half of their shots (49 out of 95) from rainbow country. While 3 > 2, mindlessly throwing up threes doesn’t always lead to wins. It would be nice if UST used CJ Cansino’s attacking more in its offense, as the former Juniors MVP did not look rusty at all despite coming off an ACL tear. Long way to go for UST.
UP Fighting Maroons def. FEU Tamaraws 61-55
Who impressed: Ever since High School, we’ve known Javi Gomez de Liano (22 points, six rebounds, three assists) mostly been known as a spot up shooter with ample defense as well. But Javi did more than just spot up in his first game for Season 82. He was confidently driving to the rim, even going coast to coast in one instance. He’s definitely gained a lot of muscle and he put it into good use versus the smaller wings of FEU. UP has a problem with meshing all of these talents, but it’s the good type to have.
How did the game go: UP was rolling early on, scoring 38 points after two quarters. They looked like every bit of the championship contender they’d been built as with elite play on both ends of the floor. FEU, despite the early struggles, remained composed and disciplined, slowly chopping the lead down during the 2nd half. UP suddenly looked fazed as FEU made their run, with their offense getting nowhere. In the end, however, it boiled to breaks of the game. FEU got a number of good looks but they failed to make them. UP, on the other hand, took what they could get from their execution and squeaked past the young Tamaraws.
What to look forward to: For FEU, hold on to that second half. On paper they did lose, but their discipline in executing on offense and defense and composure nearly won them this game. There’s plenty to ask such as who the go-to guy of FEU should be (spoiler: it probably shouldn’t be Hubert Cani, but it was just one game), but you need to commend Coach Olsen Racela for maximizing the youngest Tamaraws team in quite some time.
For UP, getting this win was huge for them. Imagine how crazy social media would have went if they lost especially considering all the hype on them. Less noise is always good for basketball teams. On that note, it’s evident the team still needs to gain familiarity with one another. While Ricci and Javi combined for 31 out of the 69 total field goal attempts of the team, UP actually tried to move the ball around and get open looks. It takes time for ball movement to be effective and substantial. Luckily for the Fighting Maroons, they have 13 more games to try and figure things out.
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. Adamson Soaring Falcons 70-52
Who impressed: He was already good then, but it looks like he seriously got better. Ange Kouame (17 points, 11 rebounds, three steals, six blocks) didn’t allow deja vu to happen for him as he came out as a man on a mission in his first game for Season 82. He was simply a physical force whose length, athleticism, and size proved too much to handle for Adamson. But even more impressive with Ange was how composed he looked. He no longer looked like an overeager man-child. Instead, he was simply man. Right now, it truly feels like this is Ange’s league and we can only sit back and marvel at his dominance.
How did the game go: Ateneo was dominant to start, but it wasn’t their offense that actually overwhelmed Adamson. Their defense was impeccable as they limited Adamson to just six points during the first quarter. To the credit of the Falcons, they settled themselves down nicely and even cut the lead down to five points after Val Chauca went supernova during the second quarter. But like what they say: defense wins championships. Ateneo locked in, adjusted, and ran away with the victory.
What to look forward to: For Adamson, you shouldn’t let that big deficit overwhelm you. Could things have gone better for them? Absolutely. But to their credit, they never looked like they lost control of themselves even when Ateneo was practically running away with the game already. Val Chauca was a revelation for them. AP Manlapaz and Aaron Fermin had their moments. Lenda Douanga will do better down the line. Adamson will be just fine.
For Ateneo, their shooting and offensive discipline (quite weird to say this) needs to be better. Even Tab himself acknowledged this, citing their poor field goal percentage (36 percent) and number of turnovers (17 turnovers) as points for improvement. But really, Ateneo’s greatest opponents at this point has to be themselves. They look terrifying, with a defense that was born to choke you to submission.