Pride and School Spirit
“Pamantasan ng Silangan!!! Tatalunin ang Kalaban!!! (University of the East!!! We will beat the opposition!!!) Together, the UE faithful cheer behind the Red Warriors in every possession believing that they will beat the opposition. Talk about pride and school spirit.
That Slow and Bad Start against the NU Bulldogs
But the UE Red Warriors had not been beating the opposition and started the season slowly at 0-5. The Red Warriors is not really a bad team if we would look at the results of their games. They lost to the National University Bulldogs only by 6 points and was able to force them to commit 27 turnovers while just limiting theirs at 14. One of the biggest problems for the Red Warriors during that game was giving up the paint with the Bulldogs scoring 38 points compared only to their 24 point production inside the shaded lane. Most notable for this loss was the production of the starters and bench players for both teams. NU’s starters scored a total of 43 points compared to UE’s mere 26 while the bench players of UE provided more support with 40 compared only to NU’s 29.
A Test of Character against UST
The game against the host, University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers was a test of character for the boys of Coach Derek Pumaren. The game was so close that it went down to the last seconds of the ball game. In that game, the Red Warriors led by as much as 15 points in the 7-minute mark during the 2nd period off and Emil Palma free-throw, but UST made some defensive adjustments and made a scoring run to close the halftime gap to only 8 points. In the 3rd period, the Red Warriors only managed to score 17 points compared to the Tigers’ 30 to change an 8 point deficit at the half to a 4 point lead going into the final canto. From that point on, UST never looked back and even erected a 12 point lead at the 8:30 mark of the 4th off a Renzo Subido triple.
Not to be outdone, UE never surrendered and managed move within one point 86 to 85 at the last 38 seconds of regulation. Emil Palma bungled a potential game-tying free throw which could have changed the momentum of the ball game. But the boys of Coach Rodil Sablan imposed their experience with a player like Kent Lao, Louie Vigil and Jon Sheriff and was the more composed team down the stretch with Regie Basibas sealing the deal with a steal off Edgar Charcos with 4 seconds remaining in the game. It was such a heartbreaker for the Warriors even when it was so far their best game of the season.
Against the more mature FEU Tamaraws
Against a steadier and more matured FEU Tamaraws, UE managed to stay within striking distance the whole game. FEU was just a hard nut to crack knowing very well when to shoot, who to shoot and knowing how to maximize its rotation. Ten (10) out of their 11 players who were fielded scored at least 2 points and 3 players scored in double digits, while only 12 players from the 15 fielded for UE scored and only 1 player scored in double digits.
One huge factor which imperiled the chance of UE beating FEU in this game was their poor decision making. In the last 1:33 of regulation off a three-point shot from Clark Derige which moved the Red Warriors to just 3 points, Wilson Bartolome was caught hitting Ron Dennison as they were boxing each other out for a rebound. The referees assessed a disqualifying foul against Bartolome who was thrown out of the playing court. Substitute Allen Trinidad made 2 free throws and in the ensuing possession, Monbert Arong made a field goal that made it 66 to 59 in favor of the Tamaraws with 1:13 left in the ball game and sealing the win for the FEU side. The Derige three could have changed the momentum sans the disqualifying foul from Bartolome which proved to be costly for the Red Warriors.
The heartbreaker against the UP Maroons
Their last game against fellow erstwhile winless UP Fighting Maroons was no different for it was also a heartbreaker. Again as in their previous games, the Warriors had a good start erecting an 11 point lead 5:47 mark of the first period off a basket from Nick Abanto. But UP fought back and held UE scoreless for more than 5 minutes in the second period and from being down by three at the end of the first canto, the Fighting Maroons were up by 10 at 5:50 mark of the second.
Never to be outworked, UE made its own run to take back the lead 37-34 to end the quarter. It was a see-saw battle and the Red Warriors even lead by 4, 67-63 with 6:13 remaining in regulation. But the defense of the Fighting Maroons held the Red Warriors scoreless for more than 4 minutes and took the lead for good off a triple by Jarrell Lim that made it 69-67 for the Fighting Maroons. Overall, UP held UE to only 13 points during the fourth period and only 4 points in the last 1 and a half minutes.
Nothing new in the UE-Ateneo Match-up
The story was no different against the stronger Ateneo squad. It was a slow start for UE that the Eagles took advantage of when it pulled away with a double digit lead in the 1st quarter. The Warriors, however, were able to fight it out and even took the lead in the third. But the blue Eagles decided to pull away for good after outscoring them in that said period 28 to 14. Mike Nieto and Chibueze of Ateneo scored eight points each in the 3rd quarter to lead the Eagles as they pulled away later in the game. The Warriors played all out and gave the Eagles a tough fight but key plays and steady free throw shooting by the Blue Eagles kept the UE Warriors at bay. This left the UE Warriors still winless in five games.
What’s do the Warriors have to do?
So, how can UE get out of this slump? Talent is one factor with UE sticking to play all-Filipino and the absence of marquee recruits in comparison with the other member schools. Another one is consistency. In the last 5 games, only Edson Batiller and Mark Olayon are the players who averaged in double digits with 12.2 and 10.2 points per game. Paul Varilla who pundits expected to contribute more this year is only averaging 3.8 points per game. Their shot selection has also been an issue with the whole team averaging only a measly 32% with 36.9% from the 2 point area and a miserable 20.4% from beyond the arc.
Apart from the game averages, one thing UE must resolve is its character to close out games. Stupid decisions are a no-no especially when you are catching up. The team must be patient to move the ball more and find the open man. Also, players too are in constant search for a true go-to guy. One must step up to want the ball more in crucial situations which is lacking with UE right now. None of its players could be compared to the likes of Jeron Teng of La Salle, Louie Vigil of UST and Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo to name a few.
We expect the University of the East Red Warriors to get out of its slump and give its students and alumni community a better showing for this season 79 of the UAAP. Nothing is impossible if one dares to dream and if UE can get through this truly the “Pamantasan ng Silangan” will beat the hell out of the “Kalaban”.
Bomba UE, IGMA KADIMA!