Prelude: Trying to capture the essence and excitement of any game and translating them into words is basically impossible. It is even harder when you’re lost in the moment because the game is so nice and all you want to do is share this game with the world. This game had everything especially at the latter parts – Romeo hitting step back jumpers against Newsome and Buenafe hitting clutch threes, among others. The excitement and enjoy-ability of this game was way up there for me.
Everything was going for the Blue Eagles early and they easily went on a 14-4 lead against FEU in the first. Everyone from Newsome to Tiongson to Elorde to Pessumal was contributing. FEU kept on daring Ryan Buenafe to take long threes which seemed to be a good game plan since he was just a 17.6% three point shooter last year, the only problem was his percentages didn’t matter that day – his shots were falling. Buenafe finished with monstrous numbers: 29 points, 15 rebounds and three assists. The threes were falling for Ateneo and it seemed like the shooting problems that plagued them in their first game vs. NU was no longer an issue.
FEU played from behind for most of the first half. Romeo, coming off a 12-assist game, seemed like he was trying to make passes to his teammates even though there weren’t any openings. The Tamaraws struggled to score and mainly shot their way into being just down two points at the half. It was another third quarter run by FEU that changed the complexity of the game. The Tamaraws played with the same intensity as they did coming out of the third from the UE game. They were forcing turnovers and getting layups. Playing good defense and forcing Ateneo to miss on the threes they were making earlier. This culminated in a step back buzzer beater three from Mike Tolomia to close the quarter and give the Tamaraws a staggering 53-44 lead.
Just when it seemed like FEU was cruising to a victory, the reigning champion Blue Eagles dug deep and completed a spectacular comeback behind their two best players: Buenafe and Newsome. Buenafe hit some crucial threes to cut the deficit while Newsome had some drives to the basket and sent the game into overtime with two crucial free throws.
The momentum had shifted to the Blue Eagles and the FEU Tamaraws were cold in the fourth quarter, especially Romeo and Garcia who were initiating Isolation plays which didn’t have much success. Somehow, the FEU team fought back in this game with Tolomia leading the way with a crucial three and offensive putback. The game deciding moment came when Terrence Romeo intercepted a pass from Nico Elorde and sank two free throws to win the game.
|RTG||eFG||ORB%||FTR||ATR%||MID%||3PT%||FBA||FBP||2CH PTS||TO PTS|
Reviewing Keys to the Game
The FEU Tamaraws focused more on isolations this time around. There weren’t much assists this time around (eight assists total as a team) and the ball movement wasn’t that good. The best example of this was at the last minutes of the fourth quarter where Romeo and Garcia were basically taking turns on isolation plays which was a major part of why Ateneo was able to force the game into overtime. Maybe it was premature for me to expect Romeo to suddenly become a good playmaker after an outstanding first game of dishing the ball.
Credit the Ateneo defense to force halfcourt sets for the FEU Tamaraws. They only had seven points from fastbreaks.
Stay close on shooters
The shots were falling for Ateneo early, especially from three, but at the later stages of the game, they weren’t anymore, with the exception of Buenafe’s threes. Pessumal got two threes early but wasn’t heard of much in the latter stages of the game. Tiongson, Elorde and Capacio with horrible shooting efforts, much to the delight of the FEU team.
Force Newsome and Buenafe to shoot long jumpers
If I had to guard a 17.6% three-point shooter in some pickup game, I would leave him to shoot all day. Somehow though, Ryan Buenafe defies the odds, making five out 12 of his threes (41.7%). Great players come up big when they’re needed and Ryan Buenafe is a great player. Newsome though shot none out of two from three and teams should continue to sag off of him until he can prove he can shoot from three. Both players got to the paint most of the night even though the defense was daring them to shoot. Credit the abilities of Buenafe and Newsome to get to the rim – very special players.
Why FEU won this game
He has to be the unsung hero of this game. Not a guy who gets much of the attention, unlike Romeo and Garcia, but came up big in this game when his team needed him. Tolomia was stroking it from long range – 2/6 from three, one to stretch the lead to nine with a step back jumper at the end of the third. The other one at the start of overtime which was crucial to gaining momentum. Tolomia played magnificently and ended up with 16 points (second behind Romeo’s 21) with an array of acrobatic shots and offensive putbacks which showed the hustle and determination of this kid.
Partners-in-Crime: RR and Romeo with combined 6 steals
One of the most crucial factors of this game was Garcia and Romeo’s three steals a piece. These guys were harassing the ballhandlers, especially Elorde, and led to easy baskets on the other end. The steals were contributed to a staggering 15 turnover points compared to Ateneo’s three turnover points. Fittingly, Romeo ended the game with a steal that signaled a win for the Tamaraws.
ADMU role players shooting poorly
The supporting cast of Elorde, Tiongson, Pessumal, Erram and Capacio were a combined seven out of 37 (18.9% FG) with Juami Tiongson shooting two out of 13 (15.4% FG). Credit the FEU defense for forcing tough shots for these guys but the Ateneo offense has clearly struggled without Ravena and is a bad sign for things to come.
Concerns for FEU going forward
One of FEU’s issues going forward: Is this perimeter oriented offense sustainable? When teams like Ateneo force the Tamaraws into a halfcourt set, they don’t have a post presence and often take long shots at the end of the clock. There’s also questions of too much isolation basketball which creates less turnovers but is very inefficient in scoring. Another question: are Romeo, Garcia and Tolomia the only reliable threats on offense? Can Pogoy, Hargrove and the other big men contribute more consistently? Last concern for me is that the FEU Tamaraws have been outrebounded in the two games they’ve won (was outrebounded by one vs. UE, by four vs. ADMU). Rebounding is obviously very important in winning games, can the big men grab those boards?
Why I should be optimistic if I’m an FEU fan
I’m liking Coach Nash Racela for this team. He’s come out of two wins saying their team needs to improve and that they have much to work on. Furthermore, he’s been making some interesting coaching decisions including making RR Garcia come off the bench and taking out Romeo after two minutes of play because of his bad decisions on the court. He’s been quoted in saying that he doesn’t want his players to feel entitled to anything. Credit this guy for keeping his team hungry and it probably isn’t a coincidence that FEU was down both of its first games but came out strong in the third quarter. The coaching staff has done a good job adjusting to the opponent’s strategy and making players stick to the game plan.
Third Quarter Runs/Resiliency
The character of the FEU team has been tested being down at halftime in both games. They’ve responded quite well with strong third quarters. Not only were they great in the third but they showed their resiliency in the overtime period vs. ADMU. Situations like these will only help the FEU Tamaraws later on in the season.
Big Time Players: Garcia-Tolomia-Romeo
Probably the best three-guard rotation in the UAAP. Three high caliber guards that can score in multiple ways. They’re as skilled as it gets on offense. Tough to beat with these guys on your team.
If I’m an FEU fan, I’m pumped being up 2-0 leading the standings when most doubted the capabilities of this FEU team this season. Now they have a chance to go 3-0 in the standings going against UP on Sunday. As good as it gets, enjoy the ride!