by: Tony Lebron Atayde, Jr.
It surprises me that many are calling the UP win over DLSU as a major upset. I believe more credit has to be given UP than what they have received. Even before the season began, many penned them to make the Final Four.
During the off-season, DLSU never beat UP. They always were a formidable opponent that really gave La Salle hard times. They had a very good recruitment year, especially with Juan Gomez de Liano and Jun Manzo. They have a good core of veterans in Paul Desiderio, Felix Jaboneta and Javier Gomez de Liano.
Undoubtedly though, DLSU was favored to win that game. With Ben Mbala back in the team, the Green Archers had the experience and the championship pedigree on their side. However there were also things working against La Salle.
Fatigue was a major concern. Three games in one week is not an easy task considering that there are practices in between plus their classes. The first 4 games of La Salle were all against contenders.
It used to be that teams that played on a Wednesday would have their next game on a Sunday. They changed that this season and it does not seem fair to all the teams to have this type of set-up considering that the players still have classes to attend.
The return of Ben Mbala’s also played a major part in the team’s performance. After playing 2 games without him, Coach Aldin had his work cut out for him to wean Big Ben back into the rotation. He had not practiced with the team for close to a month and it showed. The Green Archers were far from the form they had in their Taiwan tournament where they mowed down the competition.
Big Ben played 2 monster games but the rest of the team seemed to be out of synch. His 3 point shots were going in and the team did not seem ready for this new weapon. However, this can be lethal to the opposing teams as they will have to stretch their defense to contain it. On the other hand, the rest of the DLSU players have to box out strong to get offensive rebounds.
The 3rd quarter collapse that they experienced in their first 3 games showed its ugly head again in this game. For the 4th straight game, the strong start that they exhibit doesn’t seem to be maintained come the 2nd half, most especially in the 4th quarter. I know for a fact that Coach Aldin expects his players to play 4 quarters of high intensity basketball. His practices emphasizes conditioning for this type of play
On offense, the 3 point shots that were going in during the first 2 games have all but disappeared in the last 2. With Mbala back, the team should have more confidence in taking those shots as the league’s best rebounder is there to grab the offensive rebounds..
On defense, the team was a step slower than what we are used to seeing. Against UP, they allowed 16 three pointers at a 46% clip, the most in UAAP history since records have been kept. Yet the adjustments to stop Paul Desiderio from hitting 6 out 10 treys was not implemented even if Coach Aldin kept on telling them to do so.
Now the good news! One loss does not make a season. This loss to UP this early in the tournament may just be what the doctor ordered. This should be a wake-up call to the players to believe in the system. They have to return to the same fluidity they showed in Taiwan. They have to trust each other and play as a cohesive unit.
Coach Aldin and his staff know what they are doing. However the players have to believe and trust that they have what it takes to win. I am sure that he and his coaching staff will rise to the occasion and bring back the brand of basketball La Salle is capable of playing.
The team needs the fans support them more than ever. We may not be playing or coaching but we should be inspiring the team to win. That’s the least we can do.