La Salle, 79 vs. UP, 68
I thought that as much as La Salle’s dribble-drive offense gave UP trouble, it was the rotation of their players that also put the Maroons in a hole.
In the starting unit of Raul Soyud, Mike Silungan, Paulo Romero, Mark Lopez, and Mike Gamboa, they looked predictable and easier to defend. Give the ball to Mike Silungan and let him create. With not much offensive options and Mike Gamboa unwilling to open things up from the outside, La Salle gave them all sorts of problems.
However, the UP coaching staff countered with a zone that stifled La Salle and allowed them back in the game. That and their second unit of Henry Asilum, Alvin Padilla, Diony Hipolito, Jett Manuel and Chris Ball.
For sure if Alinko Mbah were allowed to suit up (he is off the roster for disciplinary reasons), the Fighting Maroons would have had a better chance to steal the game because they couldn’t deal with the drop passes to Norbert Torres and Yutien Andrada.
La Salle looked darn good with LA Revilla running the show -- excellent feel for the game as he knows when to pass and make the shot. Meanwhile, Mark Tallo had a forgettable debut. Jeron Teng looked to also have a miserable game but once he settled down he proved to be a dangerous and clutch player for this team.
And that depth and firepower was on full display in the third quarter when they looked like they were going to blowout the Maroons. But slowly UP clawed back in the game behind Asilum and Lopez.
Curiously, in the end game, Lopez, who was hot, was not on the floor. Ditto with Asilum. And why Mike Silungan opted to pass rather than take the shot is beyond me.
Gotta give a lot of credit to La Salle and Revilla and Teng in particular for pulling out that win. It wasn’t pretty like the first three quarters but they got the job done. It’s a good start in this new era of La Salle basketball.
As for UP, it’s what did we do wrong? I am sure that Soyud can hit that fade but without much rebounding options why have him take that outside shot? At one point, Silungan was upset with Soyud for taking an ill-advised fadeaway with no rebounders underneath. Mike stared daggers at the former West Negros U Mustang all the way until the end of a timeout.
The Fighting Maroons have a good team but they have to make better decisions when they are on the floor. This does not take away from the game of La Salle. This is a good team that could win it all.
My Players of the Game should be LA Revilla and Jeron Teng.
Ateneo, 73 vs. Adamson, 57
This was the perfect way for Ateneo to get its Drive for Five campaign going – against the last team to beat them on a UAAP court. As much as both squads have lost to graduation, Ateneo still has plenty to bear in terms of depth, talent, and game changers.
They already have the luxury of having a Kiefer Ravena and a Greg Slaughter in harness but they also have the come backing Ryan Buenafe who on court intelligence is second to none and underrated but hugely promising JP Erram.
Following this team after the last UAAP season all the way to the University Games in Roxas City to the summer leagues, I thought that Erram would be a huge contributor with his defense and scoring.
With Adamson getting its points from Eric Camson's post ups and Alex Nuyles' dime drops, once the Blue Eagles clamped down the shaded lane and the perimeter (with Nico Elorde reprising the graduated Emman Monfort for Ateneo on perimeter defense), it was all over for Adamson.
By third quarter’s end -- Ateneo’s strong quarter -- they pulled away. They’re out to continue another streak against Adamson but one that directly and more importantly leads to a fifth consecutive UAAP crown.
Greg Slaughter, with his game high 17 points, is my Player of the Game.
NU, 90 vs. UE, 55
The final result of 90-55 wasn’t wholly unexpected. The Bulldogs remember losing to UE last year. It was a loss that cost them a Final Four seat and so you know they wanted this one back.
While I tabbed NU to win (and win big) what surprised me was how bad UE is. There has been no upgrade on their team -- like they were just sitting pat while waiting for their African reinforcements (who are camped out in Laguna and yes, I know) to join them in a year or two.
While they may had a game plan, once the opening whistle blew, it went out of the MOA Arena posthaste to go to Hooters. Instead of establishing Sam Razon inside to battle Henry Betayene, they jacked up shots like there was no tomorrow. Instead of moving the ball around, the Warriors took several seconds longer than they should when making a decision. The exception is Chris Javier, who I have liked since his high school days in San Beda, but simply makes bad decisions with the ball. College hoops is so much different, right?
Roi Sumang well… he’s both good and bad. He provides points but simply takes too many shots.
The Bulldogs were quite obvious in their game plan – take the ball inside and, when possible, find the open man to further open the lane. Early on, their outside shooting was sour but since UE’s lane was like a freeway, then why not take it inside?
Jeff Javillionar gets my nod as Player of the Game for showing the Bulldogs the way.
The frightening thing is we have not seen NU’s best. The other frightening thing is, we have not seen UE’s worst.
FEU 73 vs. UST 72
This I prayed would be the saving grace of opening day. Massacres are good if it’s your school but it looks bad on television.
In my pre-season preview for the last issue of Rebound magazine, I picked Ateneo, La Salle, National University, and the University of Santo Tomas to make the Final Four.
The 73-72 result, with the Tamaraws coming out on top notwithstanding, does not change my thoughts (and, no disrespect to the Tams, I just feel they have lost too many parts). Yet bad decision-making down the stretch – a couple by sophomore Kevin Ferrer and a couple by veteran Jeric Fortuna -- killed them.
FEU is not exactly a team of vets. How many do they have? RR Garcia, Mark Bringas (I will not count Arvie just yet), and who else? The rest are sophs. Whatever, they played a lot headier than the Tigers who looked good but faded in the homestretch. Why they never went back to their inside game, I don't know. Looks like they fell in love with the outside shot.
One thing I love about watching the Tigers is how heart never seems to be in short supply. They play all out. And they have lots of weapons on that team. The task for the underrated Pido Jarencio is to figure out their rotation. But they ran out of steam at the worst possible time.
RR Garcia… what can I say? That guy was ready for the PBA evening only his first year. How many players have you seen who never seem to have a bad game and find ways to make an impact?
You could see the alley-oop to Anthony Hargrove coming. Hargrove went in and Garcia waited to see if anyone would close him down. No one didn’t and the lob was easy.
When Jeric Fortuna tried to crossover the ball on Terence Romeo, the ball didn’t follow so it was easy for the Tamaraw junior guard (wow, has it been that long now?) to swipe the ball and for Garcia to hightail it to the other end.
If there is anything that UST exposed in FEU’s game is that their interior defense isn’t the airtight one that was when Al Ramos and company patrolled the lane. Furthermore, there's a noticeable lack of inside scoring that wasn't there since Reil Cervantes was in FEU colors.
But what an opening day win for FEU that will boost their confidence. My Player of the Game is none other than the Pinoy Iceman himself -- RR Garcia.
Of course, these are all thoughts from the first game. Save for NU and UE, the other teams will still adjust.
My Game of the Week: Easily FEU versus UST for sheer drama and an on-the-edge-of-your seat game.