Jeric Teng’s matra worked – “Not Today”. The UST Growling Tigers have been surviving a series of win or go home games to keep themselves in contention for the championship series in Season 76. Just recently they dominated the number one seed NU Bulldogs to extend their campaign and force a winner take all game on September 28 for the right to be in the Finals.
The Tigers’ intensity was top-notch on both ends of the court from the get go. They forced NU to commit 10 turnovers in the opening quarter alone. Add to that they allowed only two field goal conversions to limit the Bulldogs to only eight points in the first quarter. On the offensive end the Tigers were able to attack the paint and outrun the Bulldogs. By the end of the first half, UST tallied 24 points in the paint while limiting NU to only eight points. This resulted to the largest margin of the game at 18 points. This whopping margin proved to be enough to weather the storming comeback of the Bulldogs in the final minutes of the match. The Tigers secured a 71-62 victory.
Reviewing Keys of the Game
Aside from excellent team defense, the Tigers showcased rebounding as one of the key points that helped them bagged the win. The Bulldogs were shooting miserably in the opening quarter tallying only 20%FG. The Tigers capitalized on this and allowed only one attempt most possessions. This was vital in forcing the Bulldogs to only two field goals conversion in the first period. This turn of events set the tone of the game and allowed the Tigers to build a comfortable lead of 18 points. As the game went by, the Tigers were able to continuously dominate the rebounding department to accumulate a 47-39 advantage in the total rebounds, giving them eight more possessions than the Bulldogs. If not for these extra possessions, the game would’ve been a lot closer and who knows how things would’ve ended.
Fast Break Points
Fastbreaks were the main weapon of the Tigers in their first half massacre of the Bulldogs. UST outscored NU in the fast break points department, posting a 10-1 lead by the end of the first two quarters. Tigers’ domination in the fast break proved to be a double-edged sword that worked for them. They not only limited the number two team in fast break point production but they also punished the Bulldogs by giving them a shot of their own medicine. Although in the second half the Bulldogs were able to limit the Tigers from adding more points from fast break attempts- adding only four more fast break points for the entire second half. Just the same, the Tigers were also able to keep in step with the Bulldogs for the remaining quarters and only allowed three fast break points for NU. A far cry from their usual numbers of 11 fast break points. Limiting NU and scoring against the Bulldogs in the fast break department, definitely a check mark for the Tigers.
This game proved to us that turnovers play a major role in dictating who will dominate the game. During the first half, the Tigers forced the Bulldogs to commit 12 turnovers while only having nine of their own. As a result UST posted a 16 point lead at the end of the first two quarters. Come the second half, it was NU’s turn to burden UST with turnover problems. UST had a hard time breaking the Bulldogs’ full-court press and this led to 11 turnovers that almost caused the Tigers the game. At the end of four quarters, the accumulated turnovers of UST surpassed that of NU. The Tigers committed a total of 20 TOs while Bulldogs had 17. Good thing NU didn’t capitalize much on this, they only had a slight advantage in terms of TO points, 15-14. Half check mark for the Tigers. They were able to dominate this key point for half of the game but weren’t able to sustain for the four quarters.
For the past two do-or-die games of the Tigers they were able to pounce on their opponents in the early going and were able to put up leads as much as 18 points. Unfortunately, they found themselves squandering their huge leads, allowing their opponents to have hope and recover. They simply cannot afford to do this if they want to beat the NU Bulldogs in their rubber match on Friday. If not for the breaks of the game like Emmanuel Mbe’s missed dunk, we could be seeing a different result. They need to sustain their intensity and focus all throughout the game to ensure them a finals berth.