For the first two quarters, the UP Fighting Maroons made this affair interesting. It was an improved UP squad compared to that of we had witnessed in UE’s onslaught. But when the NU Bulldogs opened the floodgates come the third quarter, the Fighting Maroons showed little resistance and sank towards another loss.
UP opened the game with a huge frontline to match up with NU, slotting Andrew Harris at the center position and sliding Mark Juruena (more on him and his travails later) down to the 4-spot. In the beginning, it worked. Harris managed to keep Alfred Aroga a few feet away from where he should be in NU’s offense sets while Juruena had some brilliant moments on defense, including a block on the crazy athletic Troy Rosario. On the backcourt, the Fighting Maroons were quick enough on switches as NU set up a number of screens early on to free up their shooter J-Jay Alejandro. But they were not able to stop Gelo Alolino who went on to a sizzling start, scoring 12 points in the opening salvo.
On offense, UP was fluid, just like in the early stages of the game against UE. Almost all their offensive sets began with a two-three high and with Juruena as the facilitator from the key, acknowledging the fact that they don’t have a real force in the post. They were patient and did not settle for bad shots. They were converting the three-pointers.
But as a saying goes, all good things come to an end. Come third quarter when the Bulldogs decided to shift to a higher gear, the Fighting Maroons did not keep up and faltered once again. The Bulldogs finally took advantage of their superiority inside as they continuously pounded the ball to Aroga and Rosario who combined for 15 points in the third quarter alone. The Fighting Maroons meanwhile were committing one error from another in the second half — from poor decisions on offense to inexcusable lapses on defense.
Reviewing the Keys to the Game
CAPITALIZING FROM TURNOVERS
Once again, UP forced aplenty of turnovers — 21 this time. Unlike in the previous game where they scored only four points off turnovers, they were able to seized 15 points against NU. However, most of these came in the first half when the game was still up in the air. But still an improvement on their part. I’ll give a check mark on this.
This was not one of the better games from Kyles. He only played 21 minutes this time, which is fine with me considering his so-so performance but not when Mikee Reyes and Juruena played 26 and 38 minutes respectively. Lao, just like what you expect from him on a regular basis, attacked towards the basket fearlessly and was deadly in the open court. But he forced a lot of shots against the massive interior presence of NU. He also held the ball for a long time in a number of UP possessions which resulted in either a turnover or a bad shot from his teammates.
WOULD THE VETERANS PLEASE STAND UP?
|vs NU||Minutes||Pts||2PT FG||3PT FG||FT|
I cannot comprehend as to why Mark Juruena was given that much playing time. He had a good first quarter, but he was non-existent since then. His defense or lack there of is really frustrating. In the fourth quarter, he was ball watching and allowed two wide open layups to Rosario. On offense, I cannot understand his role as the facilitator from the key. He was so indecisive when and whom to pass, leading to poorly executed plays.
Like Juruena, Mikee Reyes had a great start. His gamble on steals paid off early on, allowing the Fighting Maroons to score easy points on transition. But on the second half, his madness seemed like a poison for Fighting Maroons. He made some poor decisions on offense that prevented UP to score points.
As for JR Gallarza, I just miss his inside game. Last season, he was their blue-collar guy. He was scrapping for the loose balls and scored from those extra possessions he created. Now, he’s playing more from the outside. And there are now UP sets that are designed for him to take three-point shots.
First, hats off to UP rookies Gelo Vito and Diego Dario for their impressive showing in limited time. Vito managed to hold his ground against Aroga during his brief stint on the court. Offensively, he can contribute with his array of post moves and his decent touch from midrange. Dario, meanwhile, is a fearless guy that could provide instant offense. Hopefully, this two guys can get more playing time in order to shed some minutes from Reyes and Juruena.
For the second straight game, the Fighting Maroons were not able to keep it up for forty minutes. And on both occasions, it was the opponent’s big men that killed them. The next UP game would be against neighbors Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles, a team does not really have an imposing frontline like UE and NU. Can the Fighting Maroons finally play good basketball for forty minutes and end this victory drought on Wednesday?