Numbers show UST’s best shot against Ateneo juggernaut may be from behind arc
MANILA, Philippines—Two games into UAAP Season 82’s men’s basketball tournament, University of Santo Tomas has made preseason pundits take another look at their form charts.
The Tigers have gone on a 2-0 start, including a stunning upset of last year’s finalist, University of the Philippines. And they have caught the eye of the rest of the field, including Tab Baldwin, coach of defending champion Ateneo.
“I was so entertained (watching UST) and I love the way they play basketball,” said Baldwin after the Eagles’ 81-69 victory over rival La Salle last Sunday. “They just put their head down and go.”
They go fast and they go shooting with little remorse.
“Good luck (to us) if they’re hitting their shots,” added Baldwin, whose Eagles face the Tigers on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum. “It’s going to be a track meet and a whole lot of fun especially for the fans.”
In whipping University of the East (95-82) and crushing the Maroons (85-69), UST has, indeed, been running and gunning its way to the top.
The running isn’t as palpable.
The Tigers are averaging just 10 points a game in transition, tied with the Eagles for third and fourth places in the league behind the 14 points of joint leader La Salle and NU—both of which have played just a game each. Among teams that have played at least two games, however, UST and Ateneo are tops in that department.
The Tigers only outscore opponents on the break by three points per game—but still best in the league.
The gunning is where UST has made its living.
The Tigers are plus-22.5 so far against their opponents from beyond the arc, No. 1 by a mile this season. FEU is second at plus-12 with La Salle third at plus-6.
Not only is UST doing good with the 3-pointer, it has also been amazing defending it so far.
The Tigers have made 23 3-pointers this season while surrendering just 8—opponents are making just 4 triples a game against UST, fewest in the league. La Salle and NU, who have played just one game, and Far Eastern U allow 5 triples each while Adamson surrenders 5.5.
NU has allowed just 21 3-point attempts in its lone game so far, with UST behind at 23. Ateneo is the third stingiest, yielding 24.5 attempts per game. The Tigers are also third overall in 3-point percentage allowed (17.4) behind La Salle (15.6) and Adamson (17.2).
UST coach Aldin Ayo has relied on rookie gems Rhenz Abando and Mark Nonoy and veterans like Renzo Subido to fuel the team’s run-and-gun engine, with Beninese center Soulemane Chabi Yo providing some sort of stability underneath.
“But my overall impression is that Aldin has gotten his players buying into his system and they’re very disciplined,” said Baldwin.
A season ago, it would be tough to string discipline and UST in the same sentence. But this season, Ayo seems to be making it work. And Ayo feels all that shooting has deflected attention from UST’s main strengths, which is pouncing on whatever openings the Tigers can find in their opponents.
“[The 3-pointer is] what the defense gives us,” Ayo said in Filipino. “That’s the hole in the [opponent’s] defense and we just exploit that hole. We are not necessarily [going for] the threes. We don’t settle for good or better [shots], we always settle for the best shot.”
Not necessarily going for the 3-pointer? As the numbers show, the triple has been UST’s best shot so far—and the Tigers’ best hope to thwart an expected Eagles juggernaut.
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