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La Salle vs NU Pregame: Roller-coasting Archers look to end the first round with back to back wins

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Before putting my piece for La Salle’s game versus National University tomorrow, everyone already knows that the referee who called for Gian Abrigo’s foul on Norbert Torres with 15 seconds to go last Wednesday got suspended for three games.  Adamson reportedly wants referee Olivar to be suspended for the rest of the season.  I honestly got anger and frustration running through my veins as soon as I learned about this news yesterday as it is definitely ridiculous for a complaint to go as far as this one, worse, since the honourable UAAP commissioner (sarcastically saying this one) said sorry to his “employers”, Adamson now had a big bear running thru their back and eventually, will request for a rematch against La Salle.

Just how stupid this can get.   Remember, Adamson via Coach Leo Austria said that they are not asking to reverse the result and now, they want a rematch?  I know through the years that there are a lot of strange things that happened within the bounds of the UAAP Board and to be honest, I am getting nervous as well as this would go down to a popularity vote in the Board if the rematch will be served or not.  This is the problem when the people sitting in the UAAP Board do not know anything about sports.  Things really get out of hand in settling matters as such.  I am praying that our Board members, Mr. Henry Atayde and Mr. Edwin Reyes, will do the right thing and fight what is due for the school when Adamson hands over this rematch request.

Now going back, I thought of the headline because it was indeed a rollercoaster first round so far for the Archers.  Lost 1, Won 2, Lost 2, Won 1 are the Archers’ streaks so far in the first round.  If the team wants to have a great jumping point going into the harder second round, it is essentially important to win tomorrow’s game versus the Bulldogs.  Why did I just say harder?  It is because teams virtually know how teams run their plays, rotation, more scouting, more adjustments are being done so basically, it will just get tougher come second round for all teams in the UAAP.

So far, only two Bulldogs have been averaging double-figures for them after six games.  Both, for me, are already a given since these two really are the default leaders of the squad coming into this season.  They are junior Bobby Ray Parks and fifth year Emmanuel Mbe.  Bobby Ray is averaging 18.7 ppg while Emmanuel is averaging 18.0 ppg so far after six games.  Bruiser Joeff Javillonar is the next leading scorer of NU with 7.0 ppg, very far average from the two players leading the team in scoring.

It’s a no brainer that NU relies on Bobby Ray’s individual brilliance on offense.  More often than not, NU runs a lot of screens to free up Bobby either at the top, at the elbow, and even at the post.  One thing is for sure, the ball has to go through Bobby Ray on offense then create from there.  Bobby Ray loves to take it strong inside then hopefully get a contact to go to the line.  Bobby Ray has the highest free throw attempt numbers so far this season at 68, which means most of the time; referees will look for contact on him to send him to the charity stripe so the team has to be careful putting the team into early foul trouble or penalty situation.

With everyone focused on Bobby Ray’s scoring, most of the time, teams forget to box out and mark out Emmanuel Mbe.  He’s one of those skilled big man imports in the UAAP and his skill improved through the years.  He’s got good low post moves and rebounds well.  Mbe is second to Charles Mammie in the total rebounding department averages with 12.8 rpg as well as in the offensive glass with 6.2 rpg.  If the Archers had problems moving Mammie out of the paint, expect another one in Emmanuel Mbe tomorrow, unless La Salle finds a way to put him into foul trouble.

Personally, I’d rather Bobby Ray handle the basketball and set the offense rather than give it to NU’s top assist man, point guard Gelo Alolino.  Alolino tops the Bulldogs in the assist department with 4.7 apg and the ball movement is better with Alolino running the table setting up the plays rather than going to Bobby Ray early in the shotclock to get baskets.  I hope I can see the same ball pressure done by Thomas and LA to Adamson’s point guards last Wednesday to NU’s point guards tomorrow.  It disrupts the opponent’s offense, making them rush their shots and throwing ill-advised attempts.

Adamson was able to catch up last Wednesday due to their 2-3 zone defense.  Most probably, NU may do the same to neutralize La Salle’s size inside courtesy of Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins, and Norbert Torres.  Jeron may not be posting up but his will and strength attacking inside will still matter for opposing teams.  It will be important to convert if teams employ a 2-3 zone defense, especially with a hulking foreigner patrolling the paint.  It will be also essential to convert baskets on the fastbreak every time La Salle gets a defensive rebound.

I will put emphasis on fastbreak points on this one.  Why?  NU is the best defensive team in the league right now, allowing 67.8 ppg so it is important to put stops on NU and not allow them to set up their half-court defense.  The Green Archers are currently second on fastbreak points in the league with 9.8 ppg so hopefully they can take advantage of it tomorrow.  NU is a long, athletic team but their flaw is in their offense because they over-rely too much on their best scorer so if La Salle put stops, run the break efficiently and get easy baskets, this game will be winnable.  This game can also go down grit and grind once again so offensive execution will matter a lot, which includes free throws.

I was also happy with the adjustment done in the last game wherein Norbert was given the green light to take mid-range jumpers when he is wide-open.  I personally feel that Norbert is a natural face-up player so learning to knock down those mid-range jumpers when given to him will open up opportunities inside for Norbert to make his moves going to the basket the same thing Jason Perkins has been doing for the team knocking down jumpers when the post-up game is not available for him.

After that loss to the Adamson Soaring Falcons, the NU Bulldogs for sure will be all-pumped up to get back on track so expect a lot of energy coming out of that NU locker room so the Green Archers have to exceed those tomorrow as we also badly need every win that we can get in this highly competitive season.  You will hear this lot from me for the whole season as everyone is really competitive and highly-capable of winning ball games every game day.

There’s no time to lose focus and slouch because one win or loss can put drastic implications in the standings.

See you all tomorrow in the games.

Animo La Salle!