ADU 64 – NU 51
Man, it was exciting for a while. After being down by as much as 13 points, the National University Bulldogs clawed their way back and even took the lead at 45-44 in the final frame of their game against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons. Alfred Aroga, who finally played like a beast, showed the leadership his team was counting on him for. The man out of Cameroon registered his second double-double of this young season, finishing with 17 points and 13 rebounds. It was impressive. It was dominant.
Save for the fact that it came in a loss.
All of a sudden, Adamson suddenly turned things around. With another Coach Franz Pumaren magic bunot, Kristian Bernardo, giving the Falcons some punch up front after Papi Sarr was forced to sit with four fouls, AdU retook the lead, and put this one away with an 11-0 run.
The victory put Adamson at 3-1, the last time the San Marcelino squad started out that hot? UAAP Season 74, coincidentally, the last time they were in the postseason too.
What went wrong for the Bulldogs?
The biggest reason for NU’s defeat is turnovers. True, they only had 20, and forced Adamson into 25 errors, but in the fourth quarter, the tables were turned. The Falcons only had 4 miscues, compared to 9 by the Bulldogs. And the timing could not have been worse: down 56-51 with two minutes and change, JJ Alejandro proceeded to turn the ball over on four straight possessions, with AdU scoring at least a point off each fumble.
Alejandro couldn’t even point to his offense to sort of balance things out. The former national youth team player was scoreless in 26 minutes.
For Alejandro, this is something he has to learn from. The heir apparent to Gelo Alolino, he was able to create plays for his teammates (3 assists), but he was forcing things late against Adamson. It goes without saying also that he’ll need to score, to help keep defenses honest.
Much like last year’s NU squad, this year’s incarnation has had troubles on offense, which is still the biggest question mark in their fourth game of the season. The Bulldogs posted a lowly 66.07 offensive rating, while the Soaring Falcons had 82.91. Adamson also shot better from the field at 47.22 eFG%, compared to NU’s 30.65 eFG%. National U. also failed to score more than 15 points in any quarter, and managed a game-low 11, which Adamson doubled in the fourth.
Papi Sarr also had a monster game. He put 13 points on 50 percent shooting with 17 rebounds to lead his team. He was such a force inside the shaded line that when NU’s guards were attacking, they were constantly forced to alter their shots. NU took 26 point-blank attempts, but made just 14. Though Adamson attempt only 13 layups or tip-ins overall, they converted nine.
Coaching wise, Pumaren is really good.
The sequel to Dawn Ochea’s game-winner against Ateneo was not as dramatic, but equally impressive. This time, Kristian Bernardo made a name for himself by scoring all seven of his points in a limited span. It’s a testament to the coaching staff that he was prepared to come in and give the team something to work with despite being ice-cold..
Just like what Toby Pavon, our Adamson beat writer mentioned in his postgame article last time out, having Pumaren and company on board gives this program the confidence that they can win on any given day. He’s also highlighted the squad’s depth, the fact that it’s not a Ahanmisi-Sarr show. Instead, everyone on the roster can be deadly in the right situation, and Coach Pumaren is not afraid to go to his bench in crucial moments.
What’s next for them?
Having already suffered two straight defeats against Final Four contenders, NU will be up against the UST Growling Tigers next. This season’s hosts have accumulated a 2-2 record, same as NU, and should not be underestimated. In particular, NU’s guards ought to be ready to stop their UST counterparts in the backcourt, Renzo Subido and Jon Sheriff.
On the other hand, Adamson will face their toughest test to date, as they look to land the first loss of the season on the DLSU Green Archers. Of course, it’ll also be a homecoming of sorts, as Coach Pumaren faces the squad he led to multiple UAAP titles in the past.