Early on, it seemed to be the type of game that the UE Red Warriors were supposed to win. In the first quarter, UE was pummeling the smaller FEU Tamaraws inside with post moves from Chris Javier. The Tamaraws were also losing the battle of the boards, 19 (7 offensive) to 11. The lack of size for the Tamaraws showed and it seemed that this would be the theme of the night. Not only were they losing the battle inside, Roi Sumang could do no wrong and showed why he’s one of the best guards in the league. It seemed like he could get to the rim anytime he wanted. He showcased his elite athleticism, getting to the line at times and even finding the open guy consistently. None of his shots seemed forced and with Sumang playing this way, it seemed like UE would be cruising to an easy victory.

Romeo preparing to attack the rim. (Photo Credit: Solarsportsdesk.ph)

Romeo preparing to attack the rim. (Photo Credit: Solarsportsdesk.ph)

FEU, on the other hand, seemed like a team unsure of itself. Often times, the Tamaraws would just settle for Terrence Romeo isolation step back jumpers, which often did not fall. It wasn’t until the closing seconds of the 2nd quarter where there were hints of a possible comeback with Belo and Tolomia hitting back to back three pointers.

I’m not sure if it was something inspiring Coach Nash Racela said, or maybe Romeo took a sip from Mike’s secret stuff, but the star guard was brilliant in the third quarter. He sparked a rally which included him driving for layups and dishing to the open man. Suddenly, the tables were turned with FEU now harassing Sumang and daring other players to shoot long jumpers. UE, in turn was playing lackadaisical defense which included a sequence where Romeo went end to end with a layup meeting no resistance whatsoever. The FEU players were shooting lights out (eFG: FEU 51.4%, UE 37.8%, difference attributed to UE’s lack of three-point shooting, also higher shooting % in ATR, MID and 3PT areas) and when they weren’t, they were scoring easy baskets on the break (FEU: 17 Fastbreak points of 11 attempts, UE: 7 Fastbreak points on 4 attempts). The momentum carried on and UE never got back into the game.

Key Stats
FEU 99.2 51.40% 26.30% 19.20% 62.10% 37.50% 32.10% 11 17 7 24
UE 86.9 37.80% 34.50% 29.70% 44.40% 25.00% 23.10% 4 7 11 10

Reviewing Keys to the Game

  1. Ball Movement. Initially I thought the playmaking responsibility would fall upon Garcia but I was pleasantly surprised that Romeo was very unselfish in this game, passing to the open man and finishing with 12 assists and a ridiculous assist percentage of 71.6% (percentage of FGs assisted by Romeo while on the floor). If this type of effort would continue for Romeo (not necessarily the numbers but the effort of finding his teammates), the FEU offense might be better this year than what most expected. There were also some flashes of greatness where Romeo found Garcia for open threes. Think of the possibilities with these two being able to complement each other consistently.
  2. Keep UE stars in check. Roi Sumang still got his numbers but the difference came in the 2nd half where the FEU defense started harassing Sumang and forcing other guys to shoot long jumpers. FEU played great defense on Sumang, which surprisingly lead to zero field goals in the 4th quarter (0/4 FG). They also held the frontcourt stars to low scoring outputs. Javier had four points while Mammie had seven points.
  3. Rebound. Surprisingly, by the end of the game, the undersized FEU Tamaraws only had one less rebound than the much taller UE Red Warriors (46-47) with Terrence Romeo leading the way with nine rebounds. It was a collective effort in rebounds and is also one of the factors why they were able to have a chance to win this game.

Final Thoughts

Out of all the stars of the UAAP, Terrence Romeo is probably the most scrutinized, with criticisms of his “loose cannon” style of play, jacking up inefficient shots, not being able to make his teammates better and not being a willing passer. At least for tonight (or maybe the start of the third to be more accurate), most of those concerns were non-existent. It was like looking at a version of Terrence Romeo everyone wanted him to be. He played one of his best all-around games ever and was one rebound shy of a triple double. It’s nice to be reminded of why Romeo is such a great player. As long as Romeo can continue to be a facilitator, and the team continues to run on fastbreaks and rebound consistently, they’ll be tough to beat on most games.

UE, fresh from a FilOil Preseason title, and considered to be one of the top teams, now has some tough questions to face from this game. Do they have reliable shooters? What happens when teams dare them to shoot long jumpers? Can Mammie stay out of foul trouble? Will Javier be a consistent third option on offense? These are some of the questions they will have to think about and it will not be as easy as it was for them in the preseason.