Ateneo got their fourth straight victory while handing their avian friends their fourth straight loss. A week and a half ago, these two teams were tied at 3-4. Now? They’re separated by two games with more than half the season over. Time does fly by.

The game started out almost the way you’d expect a team that’s desperate – with intensity. Adamson took an early 11-5 lead thanks in large part to Jansen Rios’ gambling in the lanes for two steals (and four fastbreak points) and Sewa being inserted into the game. And then the Eagles buckled down and proceeded to string a 14-2 run. They would never relinquish the lead and control (except for a hiccup early in the fourth) for the game.

There were a lot of questions left unanswered in the game, questions that are important to the ultimate goal of winning a sixth straight championships. I’ll mainly focus on two questions:

  1. What got Ateneo the 25-point lead?
  2. What allowed Adamson to get our lead all the way down to eight midway through the fourth?

Graphs, Tables, Numbers

Four Factors
Team Pace Rating eFG TOV% ORB% FTR
ADMU 74.4 106.2 51.6% 15.4% 34.3% 24.2%
ADU 74.4 88.7 38.9% 17.5% 41.7% 27.0%
 Game Flow

Ateneo led for most of the game.

Individual Offensive Rating

A nice looking infographic. Note: The theoretical, optimal graph is for the red line to follow the arc of the blue bars (i.e. Highest Efficiency gets highest usage). No, not Golla.

Reviewing the Keys to the Game

The Bigger They Are, The Harder They’ll Fall (Attack the Break)

Well, Ateneo scored 22 fastbreak points on 14 fastbreak attempts. That’s efficiency – 1.57 points per attempt, not far from what Adamson allowed for the season (1.7) – and volume at the same time. I think it’s pretty clear that this was a big, fat check mark.

Big reason for this is Ravena just leaking out on the break constantly on long rebounds and Ravena and Buenafe just continuously tapping balls away. Both registered good steal rates (3.7 and 6.1 percent, respectively) and were tremendous at getting the Eagles on the break.

Aerial Supremacy (Rebounding)

I’d say this is a loss. One key reason for Adamson getting back into the game was their rebounding (not to mention Coach Bo deciding to play his shock troopers early). Jericho Cruz and Ingrid Sewa were key to that Adamson run, especially Cruz who came on late. Here’s a game sequence in the fourth quarter (courtesy of Sir Pong Ducanes):


That’s three rebounds by Jericho Cruz over a span of two and a half minutes along with multiple instances of getting to the line. It was a case of too little, too late and one that probably didn’t have as much bearing. The coaching staff should be livid that the bench allowed Adamson to get some momentum and (in the process) made the starters job harder. Hopefully, it’s a lesson learned for our boys.

Hawkeye (Free Throws)

In terms of free throw rate, Ateneo lost this battle. Adamson had a free throw rate of 27 percent, while Ateneo had 24.2 percent. This was a loss since they allowed Adamson to get to the line and get easy scoring opportunities. However, despite Ateneo allowing Adamson 28 free throws (compared to the 63 field goals Adamson took), they only made 17 – that’s good for 60.7 percent.

Ateneo, on the other hand, made 15 on fewer attempts. We weren’t beaten to a pulp. I’d consider that a minor win. Consider this as Adamson winning the skirmish but Ateneo winning the war. Ateneo was still able to get to the line more than they usually did. This can be improved more if Kiefer Ravena moves closer and closer to 70~75 percent range (unless he wants a “Hack-A-Kiefer” hashtag going).

Game Notes and Other Observations

1. Ateneo’s Hawk set (which were conveniently called by signalling a letter “C”, probably to indicate motion of the player coming off staggered screens) were still in full effect. What I loved most was how these Hawk sets (with the staggered screens for one player, or two player looping from two different screens) always evolve into something else when the defense reads the initial action well. The most obvious of them was the evolution into the same Horns set I described before. It was beautiful to watch because players were constantly moving to and fro and that made our offense fluid and moving. The result? A 106.2 points per 100 possession game from a normally anemic offense.

2. On the other side of the court, Adamson sets have a lot of similarities with Ateneo’s Hawk set and Horns set. The difference lies in the secondary action after the pass (i.e. the pass going to the player coming off the staggered screen or the first pass to one of the bigs in the elbow in a Horns set). For Ateneo, we usually devolved into high ball screen actions/flare screens like the ones below.

For Adamson, after the pass, they usually devolve into a high-low set. This was especially true when Sewa and Brondial shared the court. I’ve always loved Brondial’s potential as a high post player. He actually reminds me a lot of Joakim Noah from the Bulls (same skill set, not same level of skill and efficiency). Leo Austria has actually stationed him a lot on the elbow extended, where Brondial looks very comfortable operating. But there are several problems:

    • With the exception of ROIDER BANG! and maybe Petillos, their perimeter players are non-shooters (Hello (J)ericho Cruz!). That allows smart defensive teams to sag into the paint in these sets.
    • It doesn’t help that Adamson players don’t seem to understand (at least for this game) what spacing means.
    • Also, for some reason, Brondial finds himself too high (either this is by design or Rodney’s fault) that his decent midrange shot can’t be used effectively as a weapon.

More to the point of the last two bullet points are these two stills.


Look at how far Brondial is on this isolation set. Also, look at Jericho Cruz and Cabrera just chatting it up on the left elbow of the three point line. Lucky for Adamson, Capacio and Pessumal didn’t decide to sag off those two. Unlucky for them, Rodney fumbled the ball.


Another set where spacing was an issue. In this case, Trollano was occupying the left elbow when he should have moved to the left corner. His decision allowed Capacio to cut off any passes to Sewa.

3. With the Falcons cutting a once mammoth lead of 25 to 10 and a little over five minutes left in the game, the time was ripe for them to seize the moment. He called a timeout and designed a beautiful backdoor set for Ingrid Sewa for the And-0 (Sewa missed the bonus). The video doesn’t do it justice:

4. Ateneo’s defensive game plan worked – they switched the ball screen and this didn’t allow Adamson players to slash into the basket. Instead we saw an Adamson team chuck contested and/or long jumpers. Of course, Adamson was still able to attack the paint – more than 65.1 percent of their shots came from the paint. They couldn’t slash but they sure as hell could score from the post and from misses. With crisp rotations and proper defensive angling, Ateneo allowed a field goal percentage of 48.8 percent – below average. This is how Ateneo built the lead up to 25 (along with our backcourt).

5. Pet peeve: Travelling. Please, for the love of basketball, call the travelling! (Even against Ateneans). None more egregrious than this one.

6. Our backcourt once again dominated and it was a big reason why we were able to attack the break and in the process, win the game. Ravena (101.2 points per 100), Tiongson (94.5 points per 100), Pessumal (106.8 points per 100) and Elorde (144.4 points per 100) all had pretty solid games. One thing I’m noticing: Juami is slowly learning how to finish off the dribble (when he struggled with this last year). My favorite move of his? His wrong footed, awkward looking, right-handed floater that usually gets the defender off balance. The Tiongson/Ravena duo is right there with FEU’s Romeo/Garcia duo. Of course, the FEU back court is more experienced and more dynamic but it’s getting there.

7. Ryan Buenafe, if you’re going to keep shooting threes, please take set shots. Buenafe’s been surprisingly good as a stretch four. All the evidence over his past two seasons have been bad with his rookie season as the only season where he made a decent amount of his three-point shots (albeit in a small sample size). But this season, he’s made 16 out of his 54 three-point attempts (29.6 percent). That’s average – and average three-point shooting bigs are hard to come by in any league. Also…

That should have a following or something. Also, did you notice that he makes the sign of the cross? Or is that just me?

Next game for the Eagles will be this Wednesday against the Tamaraws. A win there would greatly increase the probability of reaching the Final Four. Until then, here’s a video for all my Atenean readers. If you don’t know him, you better get up to speed with Ateneo basketball culture.

Disclaimer: All screen captures/videos of the game is courtesy of UAAP Sports TV.