Before the game between Far Eastern University and University of Santo Tomas, my prediction was 50-50. OK, maybe 51-49, with me giving a slight slight edge to FEU just because of experience, the experience of its core and coaching staff with the final 4 and games such as these. It seemed fair enough for me to give that edge because on paper, it made sense.
Coach Aldin Ayo is a great coach, but it is his first year with UST and with the players that he has. The young explosive core of the team is, well, young. Mark Nonoy, Rhenz Abando, CJ Cansino, Soulemane Chabi Yo were all fresh faces to the bright lights of UAAP final four. The vets on the team, Renzo Subido and Brent Paraiso were not (note I used past tense) household names in this setting. Yes, it all made sense to give that slight experience edge to FEU. However, if there’s anything this UST team has taught us throughout the season, they don’t care.
How did they pull this one off?
OFFENSE: The first half was all UST. The Growling Tigers went wild to start the ball game, shooting 5 of 6 from 3-point country in the first quarter (Season ave.? 10.8 3s per game), and 54 points in a half. Everyone was having a field day, Subido was clutch, Nonoy was fast, and Paraiso re-introduced himself at a perfect time. Chabi Yo was unstoppable. I thought regular season MVP Chabi Yo was good; playoff Chabi Yo was better. He literally wasn’t missing (7-of-7 field goals) and his moves were as smooth as his first name. Everything was just clicking, and when that happens, UST is unbeatable.
DEFENSE: I was impressed particularly on their one-on-one and ball-screen defense against FEU. FEU’s offense is predicated on its ability to create breakdowns off initial ball screens or one-on-one plays due to the talent of their guards, but UST was ready for it. UST guards limited isolation breakdowns, which reduced help off shooters and in turn ended up in really poor quality jump shots.
FEU did manage to pull a huge comeback during the third quarter, outscoring UST 28-16 there, but the Tamaraws just ran out of gas highlighted by LJ Gonzales cramping up midway through the 4th.
How will UST match up against UP on Sunday?
Let me start out by saying UST is 2-0 against UP in the elimination round. OK, that doesn’t matter at all. This is the semifinal match and in my experience, when it comes down to games such as these, everything is a 50-50 ball game. No rust, no amount of rest, No other stats matter anymore. Who wants it more.
UST is the best offensive team in the league. If it can repeat or even surpass its start against FEU against UP Sunday, UST will have a huge chance to win. Although it's not gonna be easy. UP defenders are quicker, longer, and more athletic than FEU defenders, which may not completely show in the stats but really affect the shooting percentages of shooters. I expect a drop in shooting percentages especially from 3, but honestly I don’t think it will stop UST from shooting though.
It's gonna be interesting because these two teams are the most potentially explosive offensive teams in the league. UP does have the capability to run up and down with UST and actually prefer to play fast paced than set things up in the half court. If there’s any team that can match up with UST offensively, it is UP.
So many matchups to watch for, too. Former MVP vs current MVP, Bright Akhuetie vs Soulemane (love their names) down low. Kobe Paras vs Abando up top, in the air. Subido vs Jun Manzo. Nonoy vs. Juan Gomez de Liaño. Cansino vs Ricci Rivero. Damn, I haven’t been this excited since the Battle of Winterfell. Lets go!
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