Man of the hour for FEU. Terrence Romeo took on and beat Adamson’s smaller guards for 26 points (Photo Credit: Junnel Maranan, Inquirer.net)

It was a game befitting of the hype and attention it received. From the opening tip down to the last shot, the intensity of the game reflected its gravity on the outcome for both teams. Against an undefeated opponent, Adamson stepped up their game, beating FEU in most aspects except for what turned out to be the most crucial one for this game, free throws. The 74-71 ending could have been very different had the Falcons been just a little bit healthier.

Review of the Keys to the Game

Stay on your toes

It’s remarkable how generally well Adamson was able to guard FEU. For most of the game, FEU was shooting from outside on contested shots. Going inside was a nightmare for FEU and even their outside shooting wasn’t as effective as it should have been.

The Falcons did a good enough job, lowering FEU’s shooting percentage to 38% from the field and only 25% from outside. The fact that FEU had 71 attempts helped them get the lead especially down the clutch.

The usual suspects of Garcia and Tolomia were held to less than ten points. Anyone whose name wasn’t Romeo playing for FEU was held to less than ten points, the problem for the Falcons was Romeo.

For the 31 minutes Romeo was on the floor, every time he got the ball, he would look at his defender and make one of two decisions; a) See it’s a big man and look for the mismatch or b) See it’s a smaller man and take him to school.

Everytime Romeo had Julkipli guarding him, he’d call an iso and post him up. When Adamson slapped a bigger man on him, he’d dribble past the defender and dish to the teammate with a mismatch. There was no stopping Romeo, but at the very least they stopped everyone else.

Taking out Romeo’s scoring numbers, the Falcons forced the rest of FEU’s offense to 35.4% from the floor. This means FEU absolutely had to rely on Romeo’s production to squeeze out this win since nobody else was shooting well. Had Romeo been any less energetic, any less talented and any less experienced, Adamson could very well have won this by big, but no, Romeo is Romeo- and how I can’t help but hate him.

Bring an umbrella

The Falcons ran their offense and attacked FEU’s defense well. They finished making nearly 50% of all of their shots from the field. Jericho Cruz had a full cast of teammates helping to carry the load for Adamson. Everyone was getting their shots from areas they liked, and everyone was making the most of each possession. Rodney Brondial and Ingrid Sewa complemented Cruz’s 21 points with 13 a piece, a clear sign they were taking advantage of FEU’s lack of a legitimate post presence.

The problem came when FEU started playing hack-a-Sewa. Instead of giving Sewa a chance to score an easy two by muscling his way into the paint, FEU just fouled him and sent him to the line. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Sewa was not in the best of shape. His shoulder injury took a toll on his freethrow shooting as he rewarded FEU’s tactic over-and-over again. Sewa was sent to the line 13 times, but made only 5 of those shots, 8 points, gone from the line.

Before Sewa’s injury, the behemoth had a good, steady, consistent stroke that was successful from the line 80% of the time. After the injury, the most he could hope for was an adjustment on the second shot, often splitting his freethrows, making it an easy decision for teams on whether to guard his post up or just make his earn his points from the charity stripe.

Rebound dammit!

Yay! We finally win this rebound battle. Rodney Brondial was a vacuum on the boards, grabbing 15 for the Falcons while Sewa got his usual 10. Adamson out-rebounded FEU 47-33. The problem is that FEU attempted a lot more shots, putting up 11 more shots than Adamson did. FEU also managed to rebound their own shots at nearly the same rate Adamson did with 13 offensive boards for the Falcons while the Tamaraws grabbed 10.

Despite winning the rebound battle by a heavy margin, the Falcons lost this game because of a different stat, turnovers. Jericho Cruz alone coughed up the ball for the Falcons more times than the entire FEU team. Throughout the game, Adamson gave up the ball 16 times while FEU did a fine job protecting the ball with only 7 turnovers. This translated to more shot opportunities for FEU and a lot less for Adamson.

The shot percentage reflects this as Jericho Cruz’ “kamikaze” drives often resulted in him looking for a teammate instead of going up for the shot, thus adding to a potential turnover and subtracting to the total attempts. They had a better shot percentage because they attempted less shots, they attempted less shots because they ended their possessions before they could even attempt one.

Review of the Key Matchup

Even with the 9 turnovers, Jericho Cruz had his “A” game on, attacking on the drive, finding teammates, hitting shots outside and even getting a few rebounds. Unfortunately, Romeo had his “S” game on. When FEU couldn’t find anything on offense, they went to Romeo and Romeo delivered. Play after play he exploited his defender and made Adamson pay for not putting a second defender on him.

Final Thoughts

This is a loss you like to see. FEU simply willed this victory and got it on the back of trusting their leader to bail them out. Adamson, had they played at this intensity and level in any other game, could have easily won. The terrifying thing is those 12 missed freethrows. Not only Sewa missed shots, Julkipli missed shots, Brondial missed shots, Cruz missed shots. The same way La Salle has overcome its free throw shooting woes, so does Adamson if they want to make these kinds of games pay off for them.

As an Adamsonian faithful, this game answers the question of whether or not Adamson is ready to be a contender this year, and it is, “Not yet.” Fortunately it’s not too late to change that answer. With the deadlock at the middle of the UAAP standings, it’s still anyone’s ball game though FEU has a commanding head start. Adamson has 2 weeks and 7 more games to pick up the pieces of this first round and learn as much as they can from it.

Close calls, mental breakdowns and emotional lapses must be a thing of the past come second round. Their goal has to be to answer all of the “What ifs” that arose this first round. Adamson is known for they bounce-back games, so expect a giant bounce when round 2 begins.