In the first game of the UAAP season, the Adamson Soaring Falcons handed the UP Fighting Maroons a 104 – 85 bludgeoning that, if you didn’t think they were a Final Four squad, certainly changed your mind.
For the unacquainted, this would be time for Adamson fans to start the, “I told you so,” taunts, flexing their muscles the same way Sean Manganti flexed his after that monster dunk towards the end of the game.
But for people who are familiar with a) the UAAP, b) the Adamson Soaring Falcons and c) the UP Fighting Maroons, there’s a dire need to rein in expectations and realize that this is just one game. One spectacular game, true, but that spectacular-ness will not necessarily translate into more wins, nor will it necessarily carry over to future games.
A quick look at the team scores will show us just how crazy things were for both teams.
It wasn’t the D
Unlike what was expected from the Pumaren style of play, what won it for the Falcons wasn’t their defense, but their amazingly potent and efficient offense.
In order to score 104 points, Adamson only needed a total of 80 scoring opportunities, including both field goal attempts and free throws attempted. Compare this to the Maroons’ 85 points resulting from 91 scoring opportunities, and you begin to see the huge gap in scoring efficiency.
Translate this into advanced stats and we get a clearer picture:
Just look at that effective field goal percentage. Even the best PBA teams average around 50%. But UP’s wasn’t that bad either, an indication that if Pumaren’s goal was to suffocate UP and cash in on turnovers, then that’s not what happened at all.
Looking at the numbers, it shows where the Falcons excelled this game, and it wasn’t in their ability to stop UP. In fact they had a pretty hard time doing that, as Jett Manuel and Paul Desiderio consistently had their way against them. UP’s field goal percentage was still on the decent side, meaning Adamson didn’t force many of those misses.
Adamson forced less turnovers than they gave and had far less steals than UP. So in no way or form was this a well-executed defensive game.
It didn’t matter though, because Adamson didn’t need turnover points to fuel their offense. Instead, they posted a 77.6% effective field goal percentage and a 118.07 offensive rating. Now THOSE are sky-high numbers for a UAAP team.
While defense might win championships, basketball is still a game decided by who scores the most. It’s been a while since the UAAP has seen a team with players so ready to pull the trigger as this new Falcons squad is.
The Big “O”
One by one, Adamson’s new recruits showed just how they are going to propel the Falcons to new heights, starting with Robbie Manalang.
From the start, Robbie Manalang showed off why he was such a sought-after recruit, dishing out assist after assist for his team in the opening quarter, allowing the Falcons to take the early lead. When scoring opportunities opened up, he was more than willing to pull the trigger for himself, a rare trait in college basketball, but one that may make or break a player’s career.
Manalang paced the Falcons with 9 assists but balanced out by 4 turnovers, a pretty average assist-turnover ratio for the first game of a rookie. Putting up 16 points is also not bad, but taking 13 attempts to get those points is something he should look to improve on.
In the waning minutes of the first quarter, Terrence Mustre announced his re-entry into the UAAP, knocking down a three and drawing the foul. While he didn’t convert the bonus free throw, Mustre went on to hit two more three-bombs out of four attempts.
But the spotlight belonged to one Jerrick Ahanmisi who, at the start of the second quarter all the way to the end of the third, treated us to a one-of-a-kind show.
Simply saying that Ahanmisi got 28 points in his debut UAAP game doesn’t do justice to the magnitude of how crazy his performance was. The way he was able to shoot 6-of-7 from beyond the arc is not only telling of how good a shooter he is, but of how crazy Adamson’s offense has the potential to be.
Just take a look at one of the many ways Ahanmisi opened himself up for threes.
It’s not completely closed, but that’s an elevator play if I ever saw one. They ran elevator plays, something that has not been seen in the UAAP since… well… *crickets*.
But that’s not all, he was also able to get open multiple times off pin-down screens. And if there’s any indication of how consistent, deadly and good a shooter is, it’s shooting off a swing. Ahanmisi’s stroke from the left wing was so nice, he did it twice in the third, both off Manalang dishes.
This would later result in the unworldly stat line as seen below.
It would be difficult for him to match those numbers every game, not because he’s not a good player, but because the numbers are just so high. Starting high and ending up somewhere above the middle isn’t bad, and now that Ahanmisi is a marked man for the rest of the UAAP, it should open up opportunities for the other players.
While much of the attention was focused on the stellar play of the new guys, it’s worth mentioning that their high-octane offense has also rubbed off on some of the veterans. Harold Ng seemed to be the most comfortable with his new teammates.
He worked best finding his teammates for assists, finishing with five dimes and not a single turnover on a 50% assist rate. His presence on the floor boosted Adamson’s offensive production, giving him a huge 184.6 offensive rating on 75% effective field goals.
Even Dawn Ochea entered the fray and showed off some improved scoring moves. Better post- and footwork had him shooting at a high 81% true shooting and delivering a 172 offensive rating. He even showed off his improved jump shot, knocking a three down from the left corner.
Not-so crazy stats
With all the frenzy over the great offensive showing, there were a few players who under-performed, but it was probably because they resembled humans compared to their super saiyan teammates.
Papi Sarr missed a lot of gimmes, a lot of easy shots, and a lot of shots he normally makes, including what should have been a huge breakaway dunk that he flubbed. But he made up for his gaffes with effort, pulling down rebounds and cleaning up after his teammates. When the opportunity to show his skill presented itself, he rose to the challenge and sank a 15-footer off a face up.
While Sarr performed okay, he didn’t affect the game the same way he did a season ago. And that’s fine, because in this game, he didn’t have to, unlike in Season 78.
JD Tungcab on the other hand was just missing on the scoring front. A paltry 62.8 offensive rating makes him look nothing like the veteran scorer he’s supposed to be, but then again it might just be him giving way to more explosive teammates, while he made sure the frenzy didn’t get out of control (also, foul trouble – ed.).
After the final buzzer, there was a great feeling of relief, rather than jubilation. Relief that our hopes aren’t for nothing and that the hype can be believed. However, anyone familiar with the UAAP will know that games like these are unusually common against the Fighting Maroons, despite their best efforts, and that any indication of strength should be taken with reservation.
Matching this performance will be a tall order for any team, including the Soaring Falcons themselves. They probably never will have a similar performance, but it’s good to know that they have it in them. If Pumaren’s goal is to turn this team into a defensive juggernaut, then this game does not show that. What we saw in this game was offensive prowess, offensive swagger, offensive power used over and over again, to pummel a team that tried to keep up but just doesn’t have the pieces to follow.
More than Ahanmisi’s shooting, Manalang’s ball handling and Sean Manganti’s ability to dunk himself into everyone’s Facebook walls, the Falcons need to look past this game and continue to build on the momentum they have to find character and mature quickly. The UAAP might be rattled right now, but everyone is picking up the pieces very quickly. This win might be a great head start, but in this race to find team identity, it’s not going to matter how well you start if you stumble in the middle and stop running in the end.