MANILA, Philippines – It’s all about stepping up at the right time on the biggest stage.
And that, UAAP fans, is what Roger Pogoy did in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 77 Finals against the NU Bulldogs.
With his team down to start the second half, Pogoy caught fire, scoring 10 of his 14 points in the third period to turn the tables on the NU quintet.
The key? The Tamaraws made the necessary adjustments and helped themselves by playing faster and forcing the Bulldogs to play at FEU’s pace.
The Moraytans scored a total of 6 fastbreak points in the first half on only 3 transition attempts.
In the third quarter alone, coach Nash Racela’s wards scored just as many fastbreak points on 4 transition attempts.
FEU put the pedal to the metal and forced NU to try and catch up.
The result? The Green & Gold outscored the Bulldogs, 25-12, in the third period, holding on for the 75-70 win.
It definitely didn’t help one bit that coach Eric Altamirano’s guys made good on only 48% of their free throws. FEU was whistled for 28 fouls (eleven more than NU), which resulted in 31 FTs (more than double FEU’s total), but the Henry Sy-backed team could only convert on 15 of those attempts. Star playmaker Gelo Alolino, who made nearly 80% of his free throws prior to the Finals, went just 3/7, while key players Alfred Aroga and Glenn Khobuntin combined to shoot 8/17 from the stripe.
So, what can NU do in Game 2 to finally beat FEU this season and force a Game 3?
The Bulldogs need to establish their frontline. By that I don’t just mean Aroga and Troy Rosario, but Khobuntin as well, who’s really more of a small power forward rather than a big small forward. Aroga and Rosario should get their 10-15 points each, but Khobuntin has to be big. He shot just 3/12 from the floor in Game 1, and that won’t cut it. He can’t let Pogoy outscore him, 14-9, and expect to come out with a W.
NU also needs to have someone other than Aroga put points on the board off the bench. Second unit spark plugs like J-Jay Alejandro, Rev Diputado, and Kyle Neypes have to contribute significantly to offset the star power and balance of FEU. If NU’s second unit puts together a couple of good runs, then the Bulldogs can steal Game 2.
Lastly, coach E needs to prepare for a monster game from Mac Belo. Prior to Game 1, Belo was limited to single-digit scoring only once this season (coincidentally, it was also against NU in the first round, but FEU still won that match), and he bounced back in a big way after that. He dropped 13 markers in a rout of Adamson in the next game and then dropped a 23-10 double-double on the Bulldogs in an overtime victory. Given that history, it stands to reason Belo will go all out in Game 2, and NU’s defense has to be ready for that.
As for FEU, beating the Bulldogs three out of three times this season should give them supreme confidence heading into the potential title-clinching game. And that’s something coach Nash has to check. It’s so easy to be lulled into complacency when you’ve repeatedly survived against the same team time and again, but NU is no longer fighting for just a spot in the Final Four. NU is fighting for its first title in more than four decades.
The Bulldogs are backed into a corner. They know they have a once in a lifetime chance to annex the elusive UAAP diadem, and it’s a good bet they’ll go down scratching, biting, and barking till kingdom come.
And another thing – expect whichever team that controls the pace to control the destiny of this series.
Because pace, as Game 1 proved, is power. – Rappler.com
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