UE displays new system, blasts UP in UAAP opener
MANILA, Philippines – On opening day of the UAAP's 77th Season, the UE Red Warriors showed no signs of rust, jitters, nor discomfort and, instead, displayed the new look and new system they've been molding over the preseason since coach Derrick Pumaren took over the team.
The Warriors did not disappoint the partisan crowd who also witnessed the opening ceremonies as they boasted their effective execution of Pumaren's well-known full-court press, and coupled that with an offensive explosion to beat down the hapless UP Fighting Maroons, 87-59, on Saturday, July 12 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
"We really came out strong tonight," Pumaren said. "We really wanted to win this game and hopefully make this as a springboard for this UAAP season."
The hosts, likely inspired by their spectacular opening festivities and the presence of former Warrior James Yap, buried UP as early as the second quarter, with their second unit doing most of the damage as led by Dan Alberto and his hot hands.
Alberto went on a tear, sizzling from downtown with 5-of-6 three-pointers for his 15 points.
He started his three-point onslaught at the buzzer of the first, sinking a trey that broke the 16-all deadlock for a 19-16 spread favoring UE heading into the second canto.
"I think he built his confidence when he made that three-point shot at the end of the first quarter," Pumaren said of the third-year guard.
"Sumusunod lang kami sa sistema," Alberto, 21, added. "Kung ano ginagawa namin sa training, yun lumalabas sa game." (We just follow the system. What we do in training just comes out during the game.)
The Warriors never looked back from that point on as Alberto piled up on some more triples to take UE to a 34-21 lead.
"I think the second unit came in and really gave is a big lift," Pumaren commended his bench players who outscored UP's bench, 48-35.
"The first group probably was kind of excited and a little stiff. That's what I like, we can't just rely on one group, it has to be a team effort."
Gino Jumao-as, who finished with 10 points, was also crucial in that stretch, slashing down the middle for the two points or leading the attack as he drew all of UP's defenses to him before dropping the ball to the open man for the easy lay-up.
That tag team, together with Charles Mammie's presence in the paint, put Pumaren's wards up 45-26 at halftime.
The Recto-based cagers, considered by several coaches as contenders and even the dark horses for this season, punished the Maroons all throughout the second half, outscoring them 21-10 in the third and notching leads of more than 32 points all the way to the end.
"We really played good defense, the energy was there. We came out of the dugout at halftime, we were talking that we have to keep up the same intensity on defense. The game's far from over, we cannot just relax and make UP come back in the ballgame," Pumaren explained.
"We rotated well, we challenged them, we made them work and we made them bleed for every single point."
The Warriors didn't just make the Maroons bleed for points, they also made them scratch and claw for every rebound and impeded their ball movement as well.
UE embarrased UP on the boards, 58-29, and dominated them on inside points, 54-28, thanks to Mammie (8 points, 6 rebounds) and Moustapha Arafat (7 points, 15 rebounds) towering over UP's frontline.
Arafat, a 6-foot-8 Cameroonian playing on his first year, showcased his athleticism right away on several plays. One of which was an alley-oop jam off a lob from Roi Sumang (7 points, 6 assists) late in the third, which made it a 64-33 UE edge.
"I don't want us to have that attitude that we'll just take it easy," remarked Pumaren. "I want us to play hard."
The Diliman-based squad, now coached by Rey Madrid and fresh off overseas training in Taiwan, had no answer for UE and tallied only 8 assists compared to their opponent's 28.
Though they did take care of the ball better with only 17 turnovers, while the Warriors had 28, something that the defense-minded Pumaren hopes to address for their next game against last year's finalists UST Growling Tigers.
"We still committed a lot of turnovers. We have to correct that. If it was a close game, we'd be in deep trouble. We want to take care of the basketball."
The Maroons, led by the 18 points of reigning Rookie of the Year Kyles Lao, never had a chance against UE's intense and tireless defense. Their 30% field goal shooting also did not help their cause in any way and they are off to a tough start in their bid to climb out of the cellar.
UE (87) - Alberto 15, Javier 12, De Leon 10, Jumao-as 10, Mammie 8, Sumang 7, Arafat 7, Olayon 4, Guiang 4, Varilla 3, Galanza 3, Hernandez 2, Palma 1, Derige 1, Charcos 0, Cudal 0.
UP (59) - Lao 18, Moralde 11, Asilum 8, Gingerich 6, Gallarza 5, Dario 4, Harris 3, Reyes 2, Vito 2, Bederi 0, Juruena 0.
Quarter scores: 19-16, 45-26, 66-36, 87-59.