By Frankie Serrano
UP Fighting Maroons def. UE Red Warriors 78-75
Jun Manzo (17 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnover)
Manzo took control of the Fighting Maroons during their hot start in the game. However, he eventually deferred to the likes of Ricci and Juan for long stretches in the fourth when UE was rampaging behind Rey Suerte and Alex Diakhite. For UP, it is imperative that Manzo is on the driver seat and no one else, not even Juan at this point.
Bright Akhuetie (18 points, 14 rebounds, 1 steal)
Bright is always at the right place at the right time. If that’s a skill, then that makes the UAAP MVP much more special and integral to UP. Without him, UE just ripped them apart to shreds with Diakhite-Suerte ball screens. Technically, without him, ANY team would rip UP to shreds on ballscreen situations. In the fourth quarter run of UE, Bright masterfully stymied EVERY UE ballscreen involving Diakhite, erasing any opportunities the Red Warriors looked at just by simply blitzing or hedging and reaching out to the ball handler.
Alex Diakhite (28 points, 20 rebounds, 10 turnovers)
Diakhite continues to be a workhorse for UE despite taking some plays off especially if he doesn’t get a call his way. Honestly, Diakhammer is good, knows how to throw his body around, and knows great post positioning. If only he had a better coach to utilize his tools, this UE team would be an entirely different story. However, I need to see Diakhammer ready to play right off the tip. It takes him quite a lot of time to warm up and that’s telling on the Red Warriors’ games.
Rey Suerte (17 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 6 turnovers)
Suerte continues to be an anchor for UE on offense. And he’s no defensive slouch either. However, being careless with the ball is not a good sign for the superstar. It was costly. Had he taken care of the ball a few more times, they’d be in the thick of the Final Four logjam at the middle.
- UE dug themselves a huge hole to start the game by turning the ball over and over and over, that by the end of the game, you are left with the “what if Alex and Rey took care of the basketball?” It really cost them the game when you look at it because they were just mind-boggling careless mistakes that tipped the war in favor of the Fighting Maroons.
- We can all call Bright Akhuetie heroic and all as he came back towards the end of the first half despite being clearly in pain when he took a fall. But. That may be costly in the long run for his health. While it may be Bright’s body and he has all the right in the world to know if he can or cannot play, it will be irresponsible on the staff to let a guy play through pain only for it to add up in the next few games and they have quite the schedule to go through.
- UP feasts on mistakes. It was pretty evident with UE’s shoddy ball-handling. However, what I’ve noticed is that while UP likes to capitalize on these, they aren’t creating opportunities for these mistakes. The defense remains suspect, especially when Bright sits down and Jerson Prado has to hold the fort. Need a legit example? UE dropped 31 points on their head in the second quarter.
- At this point in the tournament, you expect rotations to already be set and the pecking order on offense cemented. However, these are not in play for UP. Clearly, Bright should have first dibs, followed by Javi, followed by Kobe, and then the rest. But what happens is typical Bo Ball: No plays, 1-4 pick and rolls to try and figure something out, ending in a bogged down offense. That’s offensive offense right there. All of the points they score are effort points and that’s really tiring, with Bright and Javi being the only efficient players. It doesn’t help at all that you shoehorn Ricci Rivero into the ballhandler role when he clearly is not fit to direct an offense and at times, looks first for his shot more than anything else.
- UE needs a point guard. All of their offensive problems can be solved by a competent point guard, down from ball handling to initiating the offense. It was weird that Rey Suerte wasn’t getting touches during the final stretch when they made a run.
- Alex Diakhite was running on fumes towards the end. He practically had almost no rest. And you know what’s weirder? UE did not even force feed him when Bright was out. He got his numbers but he worked hard for it. It shouldn’t be the case. Mismatches should be recognized, advantages should be taken by hook or by crook. With this roster, UE had a chance to finally compete for the Final Four but they are wasting away Diakhite and Suerte.