Why FEU Lost Game 1

Natashya Gutierrez

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FEU players defend Ateneo in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 74 Finals.

MANILA, Philippines — The Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles are one win away from a historic four-peat, after devouring the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws 82-64, in Game 1 of the Men’s Basketball UAAP Finals.

The 18-point win is surprising. FEU proved they deserve to be in the championships when they beat second-seeded Adamson University twice in the semifinals, but today, there was nothing winning about their performance. What happened? Here are four key reasons why FEU fell short today and why ADMU was victorious.

Ateneo adjusted

The game was tight all through the first half, until the Eagles caught on to the Tamaraws’ style of play and adjusted accordingly. At one point, ADMU even tailed FEU by 10 points in the second quarter, 28-18.

“We just tried to make a few adjustments in the second half, mainly because in the first half, they did a good job of running pick-and-rolls and pick-and-pops against us and our big men were sitting too far back in the lane,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black.

And adjust they did. This is what made Ateneo the winning team today. Because both teams were tied, the Eagles found something to do better than to just stick with the same strategy. Suddenly, FEU found themselves scrambling because their plan that worked in the first half fell apart after Ateneo’s bigs started guarding and delaying FEU’s guards, who were setting high pick-and-rolls in the first two quarters.

Romeo had no help

A team has to score to win. For FEU, it seemed that Terrence Romeo was the only one fighting for a victory – he finished with 23 points. Where was Season 73 MVP RR Garcia? Or stellar freshman Cris Tolomia? Garcia and Tolomia each had a disappointing showing with Garcia only scoring six markers and Tolomia, five. The only other one with double digits was Russell Escoto who shot 12. The Tams need to get the ball in the basket or kiss their title dreams good-bye.

Dismal Defense

If offense just isn’t being effective, the opponent must be contained. FEU focused its defense on Greg Slaughter who was held to only 12 points, but then the Tams seemed to have forgotten the rest of the team, especially Nico Salva. The explosive power forward scored 8-of-8 from the field and shot all his eight attempted free throws finishing with a team-best 24 points. Salva had a perfect game, partly because he is that good, but more so because FEU just wasn’t defending like they should have. Rookie of the year Kiefer Ravena and senior Emman Monfort also had double digits with Ravena scoring 17 points, and Monfort with 11. Long story short, the Tams just weren’t pressuring the Eagles, and the Eagles soared.

Lack of Ball Movement

“In the third period, only two players touched the ball,” said FEU coach Bert Flores in Filipino.

There lies the problem. The Tamaraws in the latter part of the game were not moving the ball as well as they did in the beginning. In the first 20 minutes of the game, FEU managed to break down Ateneo’s defensive strategy through dynamic passing that allowed them to penetrate into open spaces and score. Then they stopped doing that.

The lack of ball movement resulted in their failure to create scoring opportunities for each other, contributing to the low points of Garcia, Tolomia and others. The Eagles outscored the Tams 50-22 from the paint. Plain and simple: to have a successful offense, the ball needs to be moving.

Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g

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Natashya Gutierrez

Natashya is President of Rappler. Among the pioneers of Rappler, she is an award-winning multimedia journalist and was also former editor-in-chief of Vice News Asia-Pacific. Gutierrez was named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders for 2023.