by Edison Ubaldo
After finishing the first round with a 1-6 win-loss card and tied for sixth, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons set their eyes to improve their performance in the second round after giving their opponents fair share of scare in the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The Maroons highlighted their first round assignments with a 63-48 thrashing of the University of the East Red Warriors, which snapped a 15 game-losing-skid dating back to last season’s first round.
They lost by only an average of 7.17 points and giving late game threats to powerhouse teams like De La Salle University and Far Eastern University.
Late game collapse
The Maroons played a lot of crucial games which went down the wire but they failed to hold on to their momentum and succumbed to other teams’ experience at endgame.
They fought back from 16 points down and claimed a 68-67 edge over De La Salle University in their opening game with less than a minute to play in the pay-off period. But they would lose grasp of the momentum and suffer a 73-68 defeat bucked on Jeron Teng’ heroics, DLSU’s prized rookie forward.
UP had their magic going again when they razed a 20-point first quarter deficit against the Adamson Soaring Falcons but failed to convert much needed baskets at crunch time as they again slid to a heartbreaking 67-69 loss.
Another nightmare haunted the Maroons as the Far Eastern University Tamarraws escaped to a 73-70 win, despite UP launching a spirited comeback, springing back from 15 points down in the middle quarters.
Adding to UP’s woes was their 76-70 sorry loss to defending champions Ateneo De Manila University Blue Eagles despite leading by as much as 10 points early in the third quarter and failing to sustain their composure against the University of Santo Tomas, which broke away in the final six minutes of the fourth quarter for a 69-58 win.
UP’s only lopsided loss came from the Bulldogs who generally dominated their encounter by posting a convincing 67-50 win.
The Maroons pounced on their good defense to keep most of their games within striking distance and also power them to a scintillating win against the Red Warriors.
They forced their opponents to 18.6 turnovers a game, the best in the league, while only committing only 13.6 a game, second to FEU’s 12.4. UP translated these turnovers to 12.1 pts a game, second to UST. The Maroons are also second in the league in terms of blocks swatting 6.1 shots a game.
UP leads the league in bench scoring by averaging 28.7 points a game in the first round. One of the greatest contributors is rookie Henry Asilum who averages 7.0 points a game, starting for the team only twice. They also head the league in steals, snatching 7.0 a game.
UP has to find more ways in their offense as they only averaged 63.7 points a game, sixth in the league, while allowing their opponents to score 67.7 a game. The team is also stuck at sixth in terms of field goal percentage converting only 35.0% of their shots.
The Maroons were missing markers from their go-to-guy and skipper Mike Silungan who only averaged 8.4 points a game despite being the team’s leading scorer last season. UP was also missing support from Season 74 Most Improved Player, Jett Manuel, who was limited to 4.3 points per game.
UP’s big guys should also step up as they are at the cellar in the league in terms of rebounds averaging only 40.4 a game. This also contributes to their sixth place ranking in terms of second chance points at 9.3 a game.
They are running sixth in terms of points in the paint with 28.9 a game, a sign of their need for greater inside presence to anchor the team when the shooters fail to hit their targets. UP also needs to improve on ball movement, ranking sixth in assists at 14.4 a game.
Second round up ahead
The squad needs to grab more rebounds to give opportunity for more second chance points and also give their shooters more confidence when taking their shots. Centers Raul Soyud and Ball should step up and dominate the paint to give more options and looks for their offense.
The guards need to improve ball distribution to enhance their scoring chances and improve teamwork. Jelo Montecastro, Mike Gamboa and Asilum need to dish out more assists and give their teammates some more good looks on the goal.
With the inclusion of Rookies’ Asilum and American Chris Ball, this year’s Maroons look to be more formidable than last season’s squad. Ball posted averages of 7.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks.
Though Lopez and the rookies have performed well in the first round, they will need more support from their teammates in the coming games. Silungan and Manuel have to step up their games to lead the team to more Ws in the second round.