This has been one hard season for all of us. (Well, maybe not for ALL of us. For those Ateneans that lived to see the Dark Ages which were apparently the Joe Lipa years.)

One meltdown after another, the team inching closer and closer to understanding how to get a win. We build some momentum and then through each passing game, it looked liked we were learning, culminating (FINALLY) in a win against Adamson. I won’t go deep into the details of ANOTHER heartbreaking loss, instead I’ll focus on the technical side (like I always do). My mentors have me covered there – Sir Miguel Lizada with an article that is light in the eyes but heavy on the mind (I mean, who could have thought of “Believe, Love Unconditionally, Enjoy?”) and Sir Enzo Flojo (of Hoop Nut) with a lot of great game notes here. I’ll add some of my own.

Again, sorry for the delay, busy week.

Graphs, Tables and Numbers

Four Factors
Team Pace Rating eFG TOV% ORB% FTR
ADMU 77.4 87.9 43.2% 19.9% 39.1% 5.4%
UE 77.4 93.1 39.7% 15.0% 48.9% 19.2%
Game Flow
Ateneo

We just ran out of gas on the comeback. Damn.

Individual Offensive Rating
Ateneo

Oh, Golla, Golla, Golla

Reviewing the Keys to the Game

Roi Sumang

Sumang had a pretty bad game by his standards. After producing almost 111.5 points per 100-possession over UE’s first four games (on a usage rate of 27.5%, I might add), Sumang produced just 95.6 points per 100 (that’s still way above average, +9 actually. Goes to show you how good of a start Sumang is having). A big reason for this? Christ Newsome.

Newsome is slowly building a reputation as probably the best perimeter defender in the league. He’s defended point guards (Sumang, Romeo), big wings (Jeron Teng) and he’s defended quick, strong guards (Cruz). He’s defended using his length, using his strength, using his smarts and using all three, all while producing 102.1 points per 100 and a PER of 22.1 (ranks 12th among players who’ve played at least three games and averaged 20 minutes each game).

He’s right there with Parks, Romeo and Abdul as one of the best two-way players – and he doesn’t gamble as much as those three do. He’s a great individual and team defender, one that’s keeping Ateneo’s defense afloat despite Golla as a starting center and small guards. If Ateneo was 4-1 right now, we’d be talking about him as a legitimate MVP (well, probably based on SP he’s not). If there’s one guy who should be credited for making the awesome Sumang into good Sumang, it should be Newsome. If anything, he should be a beacon of light for Ateneans.

I’ll consider this a win.

Attack the Ball Screen/Pull Mammie out of the Paint

Mammie was pretty bad at covering the ball screen just as I predicted – his stance was too high, his foot speed too slow and his understanding of space and rotation isn’t great. But that didn’t matter. Ateneo simply could not drive against him, you know why?

That were just two plays in the FIRST quarter. I’m not one to complain about the refs. (I actually advocate this type of defense; I mean, calling defensive three seconds slows the game down considerably. That’s not good for the game, odds are refs won’t call it. In a sense, you’re DARING them to call it.) But c’mon, not even one? You’ll also see a lot of this in the second half. Luckily, Juami got hot in the second half, forcing Mammie to go all the way out to the perimeter like I expected him to. I mean, look at how high Mammie goes here:

Ateneo

Juami gets an easy basket out of this. (Photo Credit: UAAP Sports TV)

Systematically, it was great – Mammie was pushed all the way out on the perimeter on several occasions. Unlucky for us, our bigs are horrible ball screen partners. Against a team like NU that likes to run a lot of ball screens and has a talented center like Mbe, that will become a big problem. But the uncalled three seconds allowed Mammie to circumvent the system (in the first 25 minutes of the game). Ateneo didn’t win this key because of this.

Rebounds

Mammie grabbed 23 rebounds. TWENTY THREE. BENTE TRES. DALAWAMPU’T TATLO. VINGT TROIS!

Even if he played 38 minutes, he still grabbed more than a quarter of both offensive and defensive rebounds available. A QUARTER. He basically rebounded like a team, on his own (remember, the league average rebounding in the UAAP hovers around 33%). Unacceptable effort.

I don’t know if the problem is with Golla or that Mammie was just overwhelming on his own. More on that later.

Game Notes and Other Observations

1. Ok, so I think it’s time we call it out: Golla is… not good. I mean he’s a big body and he’s adequate when guarding back downs – where he can use his superior body strength to keep his position intact. But off the ball, he struggles a lot; on many times allowing Mammie to grab a good position and being unable to push him farther out. On the ball, Golla is just hopeless. His stance is too high and he’s slow-footed. Those are hard limitations to overcome (but not impossible, mind you).

And don’t even get me started on his offense. He’s got the Kwame virus – you feel like you’re a good midrange shooter when you’re not (and even then, they are really long twos, like 2~4 feet inside the three-point line, unlike 15~ 3 feet two-point jumpers which are more palatable). Plus, he’s got stone hands – he can’t catch a ball well and he struggles finishing inside. I’d rather see Tolentino (who’s more fluid than Golla) or Erram in there than Golla. At this point, he’s just a big body with six fouls. I mean Golla gets outrebounded by the small wings – Elorde, Alolino, Sumang, Lao. He grabs just 3.8, 5 and 4.4 percent of the available offensive, defensive and total rebounding opportunities available. That’s saying a lot considering he plays 18~19 minutes per game.

We miss you Greg!

2. Golla got manhandled by Mammie out there and he was a guy who would not be denied. Mammie actually has a lot of good habits when rebounding a teammate’s miss – he does the Dwight Howard trick (faking on one side and moving to the other), he also uses his lower body to create space and pin opponents down (in a not so obvious way) plus he’s strong – I mean REALLY strong. The guy is probably an average finisher inside and he’s clumsy with the ball. But his motor on the offensive glass and his physique combined are just unparalleled in this league. Scary if you combine him with a volume (AND efficient) scorer like Sumang (who will draw a lot of attention from the opposing team, leaving creeks and crevices that Mammie can slip through).

3. The injury bug just doesn’t stop. Buenafe (you know, our last remaining creator) injured his ankle jumping for a rebound. This just keeps getting worse and worse.

4. Am I the only one wondering why Elorde is playing more minutes than Von? I mean, I love Nico Elorde’s defensive ability but Von isn’t a slouch either – I’d even venture a guess that Von can defend more players than Nico with the same capability. Plus, Von’s offensive game is slowly coming around. He’s passing well, his shooting has carried over and his off ball awareness on offense is great.

5. On another note, the UE offense is just an eye sore. No sort of structure (well, there is, it’s just a structure of chaos). They only have three plays: a top of the key ball screen for Sumang, a postup for Mammie (with no prior action, just Mammie sealing his man straight up when he cuts in the middle; no off-ball movement around Mammie to try to put his man out of position, nothing) and everybody else trying desperately to create an offense 1-on-5. UE had an effective field goal percentage of 39.7% (below average). If it weren’t for Mammie’s offensive rebounding exploits, this would have been an almost certain win.

6. I think Ateneo depended a little too much on Kiefer at the end of the game. After he hit a three to put Ateneo up by one and a fastbreak layup a couple of possessions later, Ateneo runs three straight possessions through Kiefer in the post. Two horrible passes and another fade away jumper. I wouldn’t judge a 100% Kiefer. I have my reservations on a Kiefer Ravena still recovering from an injury. The first postup was acceptable (testing the waters). I’d even be fine with the second (give it another try). But the third postup? And the subsequent fourth action revolving around Kiefer (on a ball screen)? When he wasn’t successful the other four times because he was clearly still limited?

7. Last note: For those people clamoring for Bo’s (figurative) head, this is what I have to say:

Coach Bo has done a fantastic job with this team – designing an offense that aims to maximize the strengths of his players. Putting the ball in Buenafe’s hands in the top of the key (a mistake only because Buenafe might start chucking from outside but he’s great at reading ball screens). Putting Newsome in a lot of quick-hitting, linear actions that allows him to use his strength and quickness and hides his pretty rudimentary dribbling skills. Putting Juami and Von in a lot of pin down and curl screens where they receive the ball on the move and placed in a position where they can use their shooting.

Notice what’s wrong?

Yes, we have a lot of good off ball players. What we lack is a good on-ball creator. Without a healthy Ravena, we’re bereft of players that are good/comfortable with the ball in their hands.

And Coach Bo’s been forced by circumstances to depend on players suddenly getting comfortable with that role. Juami’s slowly getting there although it’s clear Juami plays better off-the-ball, spotting up and creating off the catch.

Gist of this is: Coach Bo is a fantastic coach. He deserves our praise.

But that doesn’t exempt him from mistakes. In fact, his team made a very crucial mistake in the dying seconds of the game. Let’s examine:

Ateneo

(Photo Credit: UAAP Sports TV)

Ateneo is up by one and UE has the ball. Obviously, Sumang was going to get the ball. Here, UE runs a 1-4 set with two guys in the corner and Mammie on the strong side baseline (i.e. the entire right side is overloaded). Ateneo’s defensive philosophy defending Sumang on ball screens was always to switch. But look at the picture – Newsome and Von are both angled to trap. Look at how Von is angled to trap once Sumang goes through the screen and look at how Newsome isn’t forcing Sumang away from the screen and he wasn’t backing off from Sumang (indicating a switch once Sumang uses the screen). The only logical conclusion you’ll get is that they were ordered to trap. And they did, to a degree.

Ateneo

(Photo Credit: UAAP Sports TV)

They did trap, the problem was that the trap was soft (a huge no-no especially this far out of the hoop). You want to force Sumang to pass the ball high (to buy the other three defenders some time to adjust). That was Ateneo’s first mistake which was probably born out of the decision to trap after switching for most of the game. I still don’t understand why they didn’t just switch – Von is a great on-ball defender. He’s not as physical as Newsome but he’s just as long and aggressive. Oh well.

At this point, Golla should be readying himself to take Noble; the guy in the corner (in this case, Juami), should be boxing Mammie out (I know, I know but that’s the way this should have gone) and Ravena should be zoning off between Sumido and Alberto (the guy in the corner).

Ateneo

An elephant could have waltzed here (Photo Credit: UAAP Sports TV)

GOLLA doesn’t rotate, leaving Noble enough space and time to get his rhythm. Had Golla moved up top, Noble wouldn’t have had the momentum and the rhythm. UE would have attacked the post, to be sure. But I’m sure by that time, Von has recovered from the trap and ready to double.

Ateneo

(Photo Credit: UAAP Sports TV)

That sequence would have still been salvageable if Golla just met Noble at the free throw line (and Juami, as you can see in the photo, is ready to box Mammie out futilely). And it’s not like Golla’s an incredible leaper (like Erram) and he can just meet Noble at the rim. The guy barely jumps. UGH. Here’s the play in real time.

That would be the first nail in the coffin. A stupid and obvious push by Juami and an incredible, contorting layup by Sumang later setup by a horrible defensive play by Ateneo as a TEAM later and Ateneo suddenly’s down by three. I mean, in Ateneo’s MOST important defensive possession, I would have placed a lineup of Elorde, Pessumal, Newsome, Erram and Golla. I’ll have Newsome guard Roi and I’ll have them switch everything (although I doubt that since Roi likes to isolate in the dying seconds of a game).

Anyway, I won’t judge Bo for the five or so mistakes he did in the game (you need a quick score, preferably, a three-pointer and you put Erram and Golla in the game? WTH?!) but rather praise him for the 20 or so right calls he made (putting Newsome early on Roi, putting Von on the non-Mammie big man to switch, pushing Mammie out to the perimeter as many times as he can).

A depressing loss nonetheless. Next game is on Sunday against our Katipunan neighbors, the UP Fighting Maroons. I can’t stress this enough – THAT IS A MUST WIN GAME. IT IS A WEEKEND GAME, CHEER FOR OUR TEAM.

Disclaimer: All videos and screen captures are courtesy of ABS-CBN Sports/UAAP