As Season 77 progresses, the probability that UP Fighting Maroons gets to three wins this year, as guaranteed by coach Rey Madrid, is getting smaller considerably. If they really want to achieve that not-that-modest-really of a goal, they have to start winning (duh) and take advantage of other teams’ struggles as exhibited by the UST Growling Tigers early on, for an instance.

While the Season 76 losing finalists are still searching for their offensive identity in the post-Jeric Teng and Pido Jarencio era, they managed to emerge victors in two of their first three games this season, the last of which was the one-point victory over the struggling Adamson Falcons in a formidable candidate for the worst game of the season.

This matchup has been a one-sided affair (as it has been the case by all teams versus UP), in favor of UST, for some time now. The last time UP beat UST was in Season 69, when Kyles Lao was still in grade school and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was still the president of our country. If you may recall in the second round last season, UP got demolished by the Growling Tigers in an unwanted record-setting game as they scored a meager 39 points. As most of us have known already, Adamson just shattered that record recently and rewrote the UAAP history books.

There are two subplots to watch out in this contest. One is interesting while the other is a senseless creation by myself. First,this is a battle between two proud institutions when it comes to the cheerdance. So expect an exciting and fierce showdown  between the UP Pep Squad and the Salinggawi Dance Troupe during the halftime. This could be a more interesting affair than the actual game. The second subplot is the battle of K Lao’s, UP’s Kyles Lao versus UST’s Kent Lao, which I’ve told earlier is senseless.

Keys to the Game


To say that UST’s offense has been spotty this season is a clear understatement. They are currently producing 70.7 points per 100 possessions, a far outcry from their Season 76 average (89.6) and the league average this season (86.2) The guys who are expected to lead the offense for UST are struggling early on. Let’s take a look at the numbers of their two main offensive options: Kevin Ferrer and Karim Abdul.

Kevin Ferrer ORTG PER USG% TS% AST% TOV%

Season 74

79.8 9.7 18.6 39.3 9.6 18.7

Season 75

88.3 11.5 16.5 38.2 10.3 12.9


90.7 18.0 23.1 42.2 15.0 11.6

Season 77

66.7 6.7 28.9 37.2 3.2 24.0

It appears that Ferrer is the top option on offense for the Tigers, a role he has taken over from Teng. So far, he has been struggling in his new role as he’s not producing that much. His usage rate this season (28.9) has been the highest in his four years in UAAP, yet his offensive rating (66.7) is a career-low. He has been facing the toughest defense from opposing teams which is why he is shooting badly (37.2 percent TS), and turning the ball over frequently (24 percent TOV%).


Season 74

91.4 25.5 23.9 48.3 18.7 19.4

Season 75

101.1 27.5 25.9 51.8 16.7 16.1


94.2 25.6 26.5 49.2 16.0 16.2

Season 77

78.7 18.3 22.9 44.2 13.7 23.3

Just like last year, Abdul is off to a slow start to the season. It does not help him that his getting few touches in their offense (lower usage rate and lower field goal attempts). Also, his rebounding numbers are down and he is more turnover-prone this season.

Despite their early woes, these two guys can heat up and torment the Fighting Maroons. It might better served UP if they let Ferrer take his usual number of shots from midrange and outside instead of letting Karim Abdul to impose his will against the frontline of UP in the post.


Per game averages  3PT  made 3PT attempted 3PT%

JR Gallarza

2.3 5.8 39.1

Dave Moralde

2.5 5.8 43.5

In their last outing against Tamaraws, UP attempted a season-high 32 three-pointers, but only converted nine. UST might go again with a 2-3 zone defense, like what they did previously versus Adamson, in order to prevent UP from attacking to the basket. This might force the Fighting Maroons again to take a lot of threes. And for them to have a legitimate chance of winning this game, they have to strike a better conversion rate from downtown. UP does have two above average three-point shooters (minimum of one 3PT made per game) this season in Dave Moralde and JR Gallarza (league average is currently at 32.8 percent). Coach Madrid has to create numerous sets to free up these guys. In the last game, there were a couple of occasions where I’ve seen curls by Lao and Mikee Reyes in the first quarter which freed up Gallarza in the three-point area. Hopefully, they do the same thing for Moralde, who shoots most of his threes off his dribble. Also, a little contribution from other guys who can shoot like Moriah Gingerich and Henri Asilum would do huge favors.


Coach Rey Madrid took the blame himself in their loss to FEU as he experimented with the players’ rotation. To start the second half, he opted for rookie Jarrell Lim to take the playmaking duties, along with Lao, Gallarza, Gingerich and Mark Juruena. That proved to be a costly mistake as FEU unleashed a huge run against that lineup to erect an insurmountable lead.

It will be interesting to see how Madrid will shuffle the players. Point guard position is a major headache for him. Would he stick with the wild Reyes or go for Asilum or rookie Diego Dario? The wings are another issue. Would he opt to play Moralde and Lao (UP’s two best offensive options) together or put them one at a time, together with a decent defender like Gingerich and Agustini Amar? Lastly, the lack of quality players in frontline presents a different problem. Will Juruena keep on logging heavy minutes at the center position? And how about other bigs like Andrew Harris and Gelo Vito? These are the questions that he needs to answer.


UP wins… the showdown in the halftime break. But the chance of winning against UST in the actual game is pretty slim to none. Note also that Ed Daquiaog, who missed the game versus Adamson, will be available to provide point guard duties for the Growling Tigers. And should Ferrer and Abdul struggle, UST has an enviable firepower to provide offense. They have Aljon Mariano, Louie Vigil, and perhaps even rookie Renzo Subido which could be too much for the Fighting Maroons.

The losing steak of UP will extend to 26 and will live on for another game, at least.

Featured image courtesy of Pinoy Exchange