As a precursor for the much-anticipated battle for the top spot between La Salle and FEU, the UP Fighting Maroons and UST Growling Tigers, two teams which are currently sitting outside the Final Four, will slug it out for the second time this season.
Both teams are coming off losses in their respective games last weekend. UST’s late run was not enough to put off the surging FEU Tamaraws while the Fighting Maroons absorbed their eighth loss of the season, no thanks to La Salle’s ignition in the third quarter.
The last time they met, UP started strong and even had an 11-point lead at one point in the first half. However, a second half UST surge led by the likes of Karim Abdul, Louie Vigil, and Aljon Mariano delved UP’s fifth loss of the season.
Keys to the Game
BE CAREFUL WITH THE BALL
If there’s one good thing about the play of UP this season, it is their ability to not commit too many turnovers. Currently, they are sporting a turnover rate of 18.0%, which is second lowest in the league, next to Ateneo’s 15.3%. However, UST has been forcing their opponents to commit 23.3 turnovers per 100 possessions, with the full court pressure-loving UE the only team having a higher opponent turnover rate. In their first meeting this season, UST won the battle of turnovers as they forced UP to a very high 25.0% turnover rate. With this, UP has to be more cautious in handling the ball this time.
In UP’s latest loss to defending champions La Salle, the Reigning Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao was held scoreless in more than 10 minutes of play. This pale performance by him is unfortunately underscored by the fact that it was Almond Vosotros (least known for his defense) who guarded him most of the time during his brief stint on the court. Given his caliber, I do expect him that he’ll bounce back and come up big in this game, especially that UST will be missing (highly likely) the services the of Kevin Ferrer, the man who defended him mostly in their previous encounter.
THE TALE OF TRIPLES
Both these teams love to dial from downtown, with UP leading the league in three-point attempts, jacking 22.4 per game while UST taking 20.7 per outing. However, both teams have poor conversion rate as UP makes only 25.7% of their attempts while the UST is just a shade above 20 percent. Whichever side gets the upper hand in the battle of threes will definitely be favored in this game.
Remember, the three-win guarantee by coach Rey Madrid? Well, UP does stand a chance to get closer to that goal at the end of this game. Given UST’s woes this season, it won’t be much of a surprise should UP pull this off.