I guess old habits do die hard as the UE Red Warriors regress to their Season 75 “form” while the Falcons took the advantage to bring themselves up to 2-1 at the Warriors’ expense, winning the game at 71-78.

It was a tough game to watch. Coming from a loss, the Falcons were just focused and intent on winning this game; we saw that as Jericho Cruz scored on a quick lay-up right after the tip-off. Even during the first quarter they were already struggling to make the shots fall and get past the Falcon defense. Everyone was settling for the jumper (and UE is not really performing well in this department) and not setting up their plays to force Sewa and the inside defense to collapse.

The Red Warriors gave up this game in the second quarter. Their game strategy was: inbound the ball to Player A, Player A attempts to drive and almost loses the ball so he passes to Player B who then attempts to drive but fails to make the ball fall – that is if they’re lucky. Most of the time, the play stops at Player A turning the ball over or failing to convert the attempt into a basket. Repeat that for every possession for around five or seven minutes. The Falcons were composed enough to build their lead all the way to 25 at the end of the first half.

I’ll definitely credit the Falcons for the tight defense they’ve been playing for the most part of the game and the way they were active at the boards or saving the ball. They were first to reclaim the ball after a turnover or crowd Mammie for the rebound. But the killer here is the Red Warriors themselves – they did not execute good plays and did not play as a team.

They made a little-too-late effort in the fourth quarter, finally (!!!) able to make the shots fall on jumpers and putback attempts. As expected, Sumang spearheaded the slow comeback with two treys and drives to the lane and drawing the fouls. However, basketball is a team sport and Sumang is not getting any help from his Warriors.

Reviewing Keys to the Game

1. Rebounding it all

UE missed Mammie’s presence at the boards in this game. Although he grabbed 14 rebounds (five offensive), more than Sewa’s 11, he wasn’t able to position himself for the baskets. In the game against NU, you saw him really trying to make the ball go in – for every rebound he grabs, he attempts twice to get it to the basket. But in this game, he wasn’t handling the ball well, turning it over five times. That’s a lot for someone’s who’s supposed to be securing the ball.

Mammie and Sewa battling it out for the boards. (Photo Credit: Richard Esguera, UAAP Sports TV)

Mammie and Sewa battling it out for the boards. (Photo Credit: Richard Esguera, UAAP Sports TV)

Credit Adamson’s help defense; every time Mammie grabs the board, he’s almost always double/triple-teamed in the paint, forcing him to make a wayward pass or completely lose the ball. There were a couple of plays where Mammie strayed away from the paint (happened when Sewa was on the bench) to provide more pressure on the perimeter but it just resulted into a couple of easy drives and layups for Jericho Cruz. Mammie has to be more conscious of his role – he’s there not just to grab the boards but to provide the “wall” inside the paint and prevent slashing players like Cruz to make easy baskets off a layup.

This is technically a check since Mammie did win at rebounding but he failed to finish and convert those into baskets or at least extend possessions. Also for the Falcons, both Sewa and Brondial grabbed 11 boards each whereas Adi Santos grabbed only four.

2. Force the Falcons to take jumpers
Falcon's Roider Cabrera came up big in this game, putting up 19 points in the first half. (Photo Credit: KC Cruz, GMA News Online)

Falcon’s Roider Cabrera came up big in this game, putting up 19 points in the first half. (Photo Credit: KC Cruz, GMA News Online)

And they did take the jumpers. But the thing is, they got open looks together with those jumpers. The ball movement on the side of the Falcons was good enough (and UE’s defense sour) for them to free up a player for a three or a two-point jumper. Just look at the first quarter and see how Roider Cabrera was able to nail down threes with little to no contest from the Warriors. Sprinkled between the remaining three quarters are several no-contest or just plain open jumpers from the Falcons.

3. Put some sugar on that Suman(g).

This Suman(g) was definitely all alone – no sugar, no syrup, no nothing. For these past three games, we saw a few (Keyword: FEW) players stepping up to provide more help to their star point guard. In the game against FEU, Olivares stepped up and knocked down his jumpers. In the game against NU, we saw Jumao-as crafting amazing lay-ups and Mammie being a monster at the boards. When will we see five players at the floor for UE stepping up and playing harmoniously? Will Sumang always need to make heart-stopping shots to get the Warriors in the mood for a good game?

In the end, the Falcons just outplayed the Warriors – they were smarter, played a tougher brand of defense and had a strategic offense. I don’t know how long UE’s “controlled chaos” will hold up for them but they have to start making adjustments and actually following their plays. Like I said, Sumang can’t always be burdened with the task of saving the entire team from drowning. Each player has to learn how to swim for themselves or it will be a long time before they see the shore again.