The Clipboard: Taming the Growling Tigers

Once again, the Green Archers of De La Salle will be put into a stern test as they start their UAAP Season 78 second round campaign in the men’s basketball tournament this coming Sunday against a red-hot University of Santo Tomas quintet.

UST had won three straight to end the first round of eliminations and topping the league at that by virtue of edging second-placed team in the table, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws last September 9, 72-71.

The Tigers are not just growling, but also they are prowling at the moment powered by their veterans, Ed Daquioag and Kevin Ferrer. Daquioag has been boasting his league-leading average of 19.4 ppg while “K-Fer” Ferrer is currently ranked third in the league’s scoring list with 17.9 ppg.

Both league MVP contenders (Daquiaog is #2 while Ferrer is #3 at the moment in the league statistical race) have shown that they are indeed ready and well-equipped to take the España-based outfit to the next level while being predicted in the middle of the pack before the season started.

The Green Archers, on the other hand, are on their usual up and down groove in the first round of eliminations. But as what have been witnessed time and again, the Green Archers are always known as a second round team.

Shifting another gear in the race or changing their pace in a boxing match has been the calling card for the Green Archers so it is expected that the green and white squad will definitely put up better performances this time around carrying the adjustments from those tough defeats in the first round.

UST is one of those teams that inflicted a beating to the Green Archers. What made that loss worse was the Green Archers initially put up a large lead in the early stage of the game before UST made a living from deep in the perimeter.

If there is one learning that the Green Archers can take into Sunday’s game is playing better perimeter defense. At the moment, the Green Archers are second from the bottom in the perimeter points allowed category, allowing 23.1 perimeter points per game from their opponents.

The Green Archers cannot simply allow the Growling Tigers to get good, wide-open looks and get their shooting rhythm going. As what was shown last week, it took a very seldom-used player in Kyle Suarez to start the shooting rhythm for UST and by coincidence, it rubbed off to the others.

What can be taken as a positive though, that in the Green Archers’ win over Ateneo last Sunday, they held the Blue Eagles to 21 perimeter points, lower than their average of 25.4 perimeter points per game.

UST’s average perimeter points per game this season so far is 23.7 so if the Green Archers can limit the Growling Tigers to 21 perimeter points or lower, it will position La Salle well in starting their second round of eliminations campaign with a win.

It will not be an easy task though since at the moment, Daquioag is coming off a career game and possibly, he will think that he can carry on that game against La Salle. Karim Abdul has shown that he is a handful in the paint going back into that first round encounter against the Green Archers. While Kevin Ferrer is itching to strut his stuff while getting sidelined with foul trouble in that September 30 match up.

The Green Archers have to show once again their character and composure. Their comeback win against Ateneo last October 4 was their first win this season coming back from the large deficit so hopefully that groove will continue for the rest of the elimination round.

It is also important for the Green Archers to show that they can win different types of ball games: Leading all the way, getting into a grit and grind game, and getting a win after trailing with a large deficit in the game. It is expected that due to the unpredictability of the games this season (yes, this is for sure since Adamson did beat UP), a team has to be prepared for any scenario that will rise during the course of the game.

The ball movement of La Salle is something to be admired and also expected to be seen on Sunday’s game. One terrific thing that worth commending is Jeron Teng’s ability to dish it inside the paint and trust his inside guys once they are open. It removed the predictability that the Green Archers will always kick it out to the perimeter and take threes.

Of course, if there is an open three because of good ball movement, it is also welcome but what is important is that opponents cannot just guard the perimeter waiting for the kick out pass since the Green Archers are now also looking to score if there is someone open in the shaded area despite giving up ceiling to their opponents.

Another thing that the Green Archers can capitalize is the pace of the game. La Salle is fourth in fast break points per game (10) in the league while UST is dead last (7). The Green Archers are also the better rebounding team (46 rpg, UST – 41 rpg) so they can use this to fuel their attacks on the break and not allow their opponents to set up their half court defense.

One thing worth noting on the statistics of both teams are the bench points. La Salle is seventh on bench points per game as 23 while UST is last once again with 16. Ironically, UST edged La Salle last September 30 on this category, 26-21. The second teams of both teams will be crucial once again on Sunday and will definitely be the game-changers in this match-up.

Another defensive note for Sunday is for the Green Archers to keep the intensity on defense, regardless who is inside playing for the Growling Tigers. An on-off switch, just like last Sunday’s game will not be enough to beat this solid UST team so an all-out 40-minute effort is needed to carve out a big win to start the second round of eliminations.

A more valuable thing to look at is that the Green Archers have to start winning more to get that coveted twice to beat advantage going into the Final Four. The second round of eliminations is always a tougher match to play simply because every team has already gotten a feel of how they match up against the other teams.

It can be also called as the championship rounds because this is where important wins come into play, goals are met, and the stakes start to get higher. Good thing though is that everyone is used to seeing the Green Archers play in a different level at this point of the season. Buckle up folks, all the second round of elimination games are surely not for the faint of heart.

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