As the first half of the season comes to a close, the De La Salle Green Archers are looking to prove themselves worthy of a Final Four spot.
By doing so, they have to overcome the well-rested National University Bulldogs this Saturday noon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The two teams face each other once again after the title decider of the 2012 FilOil Flying V Preseason Hanes Cup.
With the DLSU Green Archers having to play this past weekend, the NU Bulldogs have yet to see action since their August 5 win against Adamson University.
The two-week hiatus serves as a double-edged sword for the Bulldogs. They might have been handed a chance to rest and scout the Green Archers last weekend, but it could also mean that their extended break could derail the momentum that they had established after their last game.
The most anticipated showdown for this match would probably be between incumbent Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks and leading Rookie of the Year candidate Jeron Teng.
The two of them actually played with each other, for the Philippines, during the 2010 Youth Olympic Games 3-on-3 basketball tournament.
However, do not expect the both of them to hound each other, since it is most likely that it will be top-notch defender Jed Manguera instead of the former Xavier superstar who will be deployed to bother the reigning MVP.
Making every arrow count
Free throws spell the difference between life and death for the Green Archers, who have failed to win in the two of their three losses due to a sub-par free throw shooting in their campaign thus far.
Making matters worse, the boys usually misfire during crunch time. For this season, the Green Archers are ranked 6th in the league when it comes to free throw percentage, with 60.2%.
According to Coach Gee Abanilla, he considers the struggle from the line to be a mental thing, since the boys are making their free throws during their training sessions.
Another concern for the struggling Archers is taking care of possession. The Green Archers have squandered the ball 16 times against an undermanned Adamson squad.
Against NU, the Abanilla-guided team should lessen this figure, for them to have a better shot in succeeding, especially since the Bulldogs tend to score a respectable amount of points off their opponents’ turnovers.
Bulldogs gaining momentum
Last season, the two squads split their meetings with the Green Archers, taking the first meeting with a 74-63 triumph. Despite the 11-point gap in the final score, the Green-and-White clad cagers were ahead by as high as 30 at one point, only for the Sampaloc-based Five to mount a comeback which trimmed the deficit down to seven before the Green Archers pushed the lead for good.
In their rematch, NU’s 56-40 victory sent the then Pumaren-mentored squad to an early vacation. The Bulldogs limited the Taft-based dribblers to a single field goal in the last quarter.
If their FilOil face-off serves as an indication, then the Green Archers need to be wary of the Bulldogs’ outside shooting. The Bulldogs fired 6 out of 20 from three-point land.
One more factor to be addressed by Coach Abanilla to his wards is converting from their offensive boards.
Even if the Green Archers are able to power themselves by grabbing the ball of shots, they find it hard to produce from these additional opportunities. Against NU during the summer tournament, they were able to collect nine offensive rebounds, but failed to score from any of them.
Building on the positives
Just like in their three wins, the Green Archers were able to stay composed in the end game.
This has yet to become a consistent feat, since they failed to close out two tight games against the FEU Tamaraws and the UST Growling Tigers, but getting that win against Adamson is just on time for the Green Archers to gain some momentum in facing the on-song Bulldogs.
Also, the rookies have been given the chance to show their talents on the court. Mac Tallo, Jeron Teng and Thomas Torres all played quality minutes for the Taft side.
Expect more minutes for them in the upcoming games as they continue to blossom from high school standouts to college stars.
A peculiar tip-off time awaits the Green Archers, who will be playing their first UAAP game during lunchtime. Expect a cagey affair between both squads who are touted to contest a spot in the playoffs.
NOTE: Green Archers starting point guard and team co-captain LA Revilla remains doubtful for their game against the Bulldogs this Saturday. The playmaker has spent the week recovering from an ankle sprain that he picked up against Adamson Soaring Falcons last Sunday.