DLSU: The defending champions in a hole

By Rick Olivares

Posted at Jul 21 2014 11:52 AM | Updated as of Jul 21 2014 07:53 PM

La Salle's Jason Perkins celebrates after scoring a three-pointer against Ateneo. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com

Down 0-2 to start the season, should the defending champions be worried? Just a bit. I don’t think they expected to be winless at this point though.

You can say that they’ve been down in the first round before but that was last year.

This time around, they ran up against an Ateneo team that first and foremost was healthy and second, was all sorts of motivated.

During the summer, I recall DLSU coach Juno Sauler saying that he was trying to get his team to finish strong. For the most part they chugged along, playing with the cool of a defending champion who has gained massive confidence. They’d post a lead then lose it. Sometimes I got the feeling they felt they could turn it on and off any time they wanted.

For the most part, they were able to pull it off. Occasionally, they paid for it with losses to JRU and Perpetual Help and nearly dropped one to FEU in the summer and were it not for an errant shot by Mike Tolomia, they might have not made the finals of the Filoil tourney.

The UAAP, of course, is all together another animal.

In their two matches against FEU and Ateneo to start UAAP Season 77, they opened the game as befitting a champion – like a powerhouse ready to roll over foes from the first quarter.

Against the Tamaraws and the Blue Eagles, they were beaten in the second and fourth periods – just when they needed to close it out.


Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
23
14
22
18
FEU
10
23
24
25

 

 

Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
24
13
22
27
AdMU
17
22
22
36
Off hand, I’d say that the missing piece to their puzzle has been Arnold Van Opstal. He scored seven and 10 points respectively against FEU and Ateneo. Against the latter, he put in several in the fourth but the Blue Eagles were decisively ahead. AVO has been consistent with his rebounds at 9.0 per game. It’s his scoring.

Last season, Van Opstal began to play better in the second round and that coincided with La Salle’s ascent.

Another problem is drawing strong performances from several players at the same time.

Take a look at the charts below where I’ve listed players scoring at least five points in every quarter.

Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
Vosotros 7 pts.
Teng 5 pts.
Perkins 5pts.
Vosotros 5 pts.
Vosotros 6 pts.
Teng 6 pts.
Montalbo 5 pts.
FEU
Belo 5 pts.
Belo 8 pts.
Escoto Ru. 6 pts.
Tolomia 7 pts.
Belo 5 pts.
Tolomia 13 pts.
Cruz 6 pts.

 

 

Team
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
DLSU
Perkins 6 pts.
Teng 5 pts.
 
Perkins 12 pts.
Vosotros 9 pts.
Van Opstal 7 pts.
Teng 5 pts.
Ateneo
Tolentino 6 pts.
Pessumal 9 pts.
Newsome 5 pts.
Ravena 9 pts.
Pessumal 7 pts.
Ravena 14 pts.
Gotladera 7 pts.
Tolentino 7 pts.
Elorde 6pts.

 

So far, La Salle has gotten consistent performances out of two players – Jason Perkins and Jeron Teng.

In the Ateneo game, the Blue Eagles had three players – Kiefer Ravena, Arvin Tolentino and Von Pessumal with a strong outing from either Chris Newsome or Alfonso Gotladera.

But wait. There’s a footnote begging to be mentioned there.

When La Salle cut Nico Elorde, he turned out to be a very good player for Ateneo. When the Green Archers benched Gotladera who scored a grand total of two points in his two years in Taft, Fonso responded with a 17-point, eight rebound, and two blocked shots stat line. While he might have been extra motivated, you can’t say he didn’t perform in his Ateneo debut against Adamson when he tallied two points, six rebounds, and three blocked shots in 14 minutes. He more than doubled that output with 31 minutes against La Salle. And when Sauler employed the Hack-A-Gotladera, the Ateneo big man responded pretty well.

Should one say that Pessumal was a surprise package? Nope. If anyone bothered to watch the pre-season of last year, Von was playing awesome until he got injured. And quite frankly, he – along with everyone else who was nursing an injury last season -- never found their groove.

The first thing that came to my mind seeing Ateneo this year, “Man, they play just the way Bo Perasol’s Powerade Tigers did. Von Pessumal is Gary David. Kiefer Ravena is Marcio Lassiter. Alfonso Gotladera is like Sean Anthony.” Seriously.

Conversely, watching La Salle, I thought they junked some of the things they did during the summer probably because those plays were already scouted. They mostly sets with players atop the arc using screens or one-on-one plays to break down their man, drive and find an open teammate if they couldn’t finish.

Nevertheless, you can be sure that Sauler and his coaching staff will find a way to get Van Opstal in the game early on in their next match. They’ll hope that Vosotros and Thomas Torres find the range as well to open it up for AVO, Norbert Torres and Jason Perkins to pound the ball inside. Maybe they’ll even try Matt Salem because when he hits that first long tom then he’s in a groove.

Down 0-2 to start the season, there’ll be a little more sense of urgency when La Salle takes on the 2-0 National University Bulldogs this coming Wednesday at the MOA Arena.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.