Preview: DLSU Green Archers vs UP Fighting Maroons: Can the Archers salvage the season? Or is this the end of the road?
Twelve games gone. It is our second to the last game of the elimination round, and to keep our Final Four dreams alive we need to beat UP. How alarming is that?
It is alarming.
The Archers will try to extend their season, as they take on the UP Fighting Maroons this Wednesday at the Smart- Araneta Coliseum. During the first round, UP scored an upset over DLSU, 71-66 after taking control for the majority of that game. La Salle tried to rally towards the end, but Jeron Teng fouled out as the Maroons picked up what was considered a huge upset at that time. The Maroons had improbably led the league with a 2-0 record, but today have already been eliminated from contention with a 3-9 record. However, underestimating them once more would be a huge mistake, since they have nothing to lose, and an opponent with nothing to lose is always a dangerous one.
Here are the keys to the game.
No Third Quarter collapse please!
La Salle played horribly during the third quarter in some of the games this season. There was that infamous 20-0 blast of FEU to end the third period during the first round. The same thing happened during the third quarter during the first and second round games against UST, in which UST controlled the second half after La Salle had dominated the first half of both games. And last Sunday against Ateneo, the Blue Eagles outscored the Green Archers, 23-9 during that period. It seems that the coaching staff doesn’t know how to make the necessary adjustments during the halftime break, as evident by the lackluster third quarter of the Archers during those games. If UP explodes during the third quarter this Wednesday, they can gain the momentum, and that could led to a disastrous fourth quarter for the Archers.
This has been La Salle’s Achilles heel for the longest time. And our old weakness showed up once again during that big rivalry game over the weekend. La Salle shot a horrible 12/24 from the foul line last Sunday. DLSU missed a couple of free throws down the stretch to end whatever rally the Archers were trying to make during the last few minutes of the game. Good free throw shooting might just be the difference between a Final Four berth, and an unexpected early vacation.
Veteran leadership is needed
Much has been said about the veterans of La Salle this season, and not all of it is complimentary. Thomas Torres has been having a terrible season so far. His shooting percentages are horrendous, especially from the three-point region. His assist numbers are low, as he is playing as a shoot first point guard and not as a ball distributor. If he insists on shooting bricks instead of orchestrating the offense properly, then we are probably headed for an early vacation. Jason Perkins has been struggling offensively during this season. His rebounding is there, but his offense has been absent for most of the games. Perhaps slimming down was not the right thing to do, as he lost his bulk, bulk that is needed when he is banging bodies down low. He is not the same player that won a Mythical 5 award during his rookie year. If Perkins doesn’t step up during the last 2 games of the elimination round, then maybe these are our last 2 games of the season.
But of course when we talk about veterans, when we talk about our Final Four dreams, it will always boil down to this one guy. Numbers wise, Jeron Teng has been having a good season, as he is playing in a “Mythical 5 level” form. He has scored in double-digits in every game of the season so far. But fair or not, Jeron has been held to a much higher standards compared to most of his peers. And even though he has been putting up the numbers, if that doesn’t translate to wins, some people would put the blame on him. Is it fair? Maybe not, as he is only one man and he is certainly doing his best, he is our best player and we wouldn’t even be in a position to compete for a Final Four slot if it wasn’t for him. But when you are the King Archer, when you are the face of a major basketball program, when you represent a high profile university, when you have the spotlight, the endorsements, the commercials and all the social media buzz, when your team fails, people will make you the scapegoat, whether it is deserved or not. The bottom line is, Jeron Teng must lead us to the Final Four. Then anything can happen.
We are down to the last 2 games of the elimination round. It is not over yet. Our fate is still in our hands. And also in the hands of the other teams. We just need to take it one game at a time, one possession at a time. Let us continue to support our Green Archers no matter what; they need us now more than ever. And to paraphrase the commercial of our starting point guard, “Archers never quit, because the season is not yet over!”