La Salle vs FEU Pregame Primer: Operation payback

The crowd went on a frenzy after Luigi De La Paz’s signature corner triple as it swelled the La Salle lead to 73-60 with over 2:30 left in regulation. The Green and White faithful can now smell that that the Tamaraws’ untainted record is about to be stuck hard by La Salle’s arrows.

But the unthinkable and a heart-breaking loss is what took place.

Coming from a huge win against archrival Ateneo the game before, everyone expected the Green Archers to come out blazing with their newfound confidence. But things went on a downward spiral as end-game miscues and botched free throws doomed the Archers leading to a 79-83 overtime loss.

In that game, Jeron Teng had his best game of the tournament after a double-double performance of 25 points and 15 rebounds. Even though he performed well on the court, what doomed the sophomore hotshot is his horrendous 3/11 shooting clip from the foul line. Aside from Teng, Arnold van Opstal also had a double-double explosion as he dominated the FEU frontline by ending the game with 20 points and 11 rebounds.

An entirely new system

FEU finally got its first loss of the season after being pounced by the NU Bulldogs last Wednesday with a nail-biting 58-59 win. But this doesn’t mean that the Tams are beginning to collapse on itself.

Applying the dribble-drive motion offense, FEU finally got the right mix in order for its guard cadets to share the ball effectively. Considering on how dominant Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia is when handling the ball, their new system under Nash Racela opens up a new opportunity to score as effective ball movement is required along with a bigger tolerance against isolation sets.

With that system FEU ranks first in perimeter points averaging 39.3 points per game while La Salle comes in at third with 28.6 point per contest. The Tams have also been the hottest outside shooting team in the league with its 32 percent shooting clip and is also the highest scoring team with 80.6 points per game.

Nash Racela has transformed this team into an efficient offensive juggernaut which makes it tough for opposing teams to handle.

What awaits the Archers is the newly-improved Terrence Romeo. The former rookie of the year brings a lot to the table as he is a difficult combo guard to deal with given his ball handling duties and lethal outside stroke. Another one that the La Salle must be cautious with is the stellar play of RR Garcia which is also similar to Romeo’s skill set.

Pressuring the backcourt

For La Salle to stand firm against FEU’s lethal combo, the team must rely on its stingy perimeter defense on those two hotshot guards.

In dealing with Romeo, the Archers must stick to him like glue in order to avoid him from waxing hot down the stretch since he can virtually hit shots from anywhere in the court. It is well observed that Romeo likes to get his rhythm going by taking a lot of perimeter shots in the early parts of the game.

What La Salle can do about with this perennial MVP candidate is to make him work hard for his shots as he has a history of shooting himself out of isolation situations whenever his team mates are well guarded by the defense. Perhaps the most effective way for Romeo to be ineffective is to make him work hard for his shots. The same thing can also be done on Garcia.

With La Salle having more mobile and agile guards in its lineup, except them to bother FEU’s top guns given their length, mobility and pesky defense.

Own the frontline

What made the Archers very dominant in their game against  the Tams in their earlier encounter was the imposing dominance of our big guys in Arnold van Opstal and Jason Perkins.

After spending some time under the tutelage of legendary La Salle center Jun Limpot, Van Opstal finally showed the fruits of his labor by unleashing his series of crafty post moves and he can also be a walking highlight reel with his thunderous slams. In their game against FEU, Van Opstal effectively neutralized Anthony Hargrove and Christian Sentcheu by holding them to a combined stat line of 4 points, 6 rebounds and 8 fouls.

On other hand, Perkins has also proven to be a reliable cog for La Salle with his energy and rebounding prowess. He scored 10 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in their last encounter with FEU and the southpaw forward also made life tough on the offensive end for FEU’s forwards in Mark Belo and Roger Pogoy.

Guard cadets

Parading a breed of highly versatile guards, La Salle can easily matchup with FEU if they throw a series of combinations to confuse their game plan. In Coach Juno’s rotation, putting Almond Vosotros as shooting guard surely paid dividends since it has led to more open attempts from the outside. Putting De La Paz at the three gives La Salle better floor spacing especially when doing kickout passes for corner triples. Teams must also be wary of the playmaking abilities of L.A. Revilla, Thomas Torres and Kib Montalbo. If taken lightly, it’s going to be a long day for the opposition.

All heart

Another 40 minutes of hoops action shall test our team’s character and determination to win yet again. On paper, the team could easily match well with any team in the league but sometimes it all boils down on the mental aspect of the game. When a team wants it more, definitely momentum shall swing towards them.

Expect a tough, physical and gritty match between these teams tomorrow.

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