The Games that Play Us: Battle Cats

The Tigers got the jump on UP and closed out their 4th win
of the season.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
UST Growling Tigers over the UP Fighting Maroons, 77-70

UST’s Karim Abdul may not be Jabbar, but judging by the way he played yesterday, it seems he may share more than just his name with the NBA Hall-of-Famer.

Abdul was the undisputed leader of the Tigers in this encounter as he produced 21 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 block. And the guy who was supposed to stop him? Yeah, Alinko Mbah of UP? He played just 12 minutes. He got saddled by foul trouble. His production? 2 points, 1 rebound, 1 steal and 1 block.

Karim Abdul outplayed fellow African import Alinko Mbah.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
Still, UP hung around in this one. Behind the hot shooting of coach Ricky Dandan’s Mike & Mike combo, the Maroons stayed within striking distance of UST. It took some big shots from España’s star guard, Jeric Fortuna, to preserve the win for coach Pido Jarencio.

It wasn’t just Fortuna and Abdul who killed UP, though. A glance at the numbers reveals that the Maroons may have shot themselves on the foot here. They attempted 21 more shots from beyond the arc. Yes, TWENTY ONE more than UST. And this is UST here, mind you. This is a team that, like its coach, is known for shooting the heck from way out. And the consequence of those TWENTY ONE extra three-point attempts, coupled with UST’s newfound inside presence, was a telling 13-shot free-throw discrepancy in favor of the Tigers.

The rule still holds true: the team that goes inside more puts themselves in a better position to get to the line.

Paolo Romero and the rest of the Maroons should've gone
strong to the hole a little more often.
(image by Diana Moraleda/ 
UST didn’t waste that advantage. The Black & Gold converted 19 of their 24 charities compared to UP’s 5-of-11 performance. That’s a 14-point disparity that clearly spelled the difference in the game.

So Mike & Mike showed up here, but what about UP’s other vaunted duo – J & J? Jett Manuel & Jelo Montecastro combined for just 4-of-19 FG shooting, though Montecastro led the team in rebounding with 11.

But therein lies the problem for coach Dandan. Someone else can pick up the slack of the rebounding and scoring missed when Mbah is riding the pine, but what nobody else on this roster can do is guard a dominant big man like Abdul. And against opposing slotmen like Greg Slaughter, Emmanuel Mbe, Aldrech Ramos, or the emerging Norbert Torres, UP can ill afford to sit its import in long stretches.

So where does UP go from here? Well, FEU and NU are next this week, which means Ramos and Mbe are both lying in wait. The Diliman quintet will need a lot of luck to pull out a win, especially since the Tams are raring to exact revenge, and NU looks to be on the upturn.

Somebody ought to remind Jelo Montecastro that
head-scratching won't make losing feel any better.
(image by Diana Moraleda/
On the other end of the floor, coach Jarencio can be glad about how his team responded after the close loss to La Salle a few days prior. If his prized Cameroonian continues playing close to his namesake’s game, then perhaps a late Final Four run is in the offing. The guy who’ll need to blossom, however, is rookie Kevin Ferrer, who, after a fine start to the season, has been relegated to the background. If coach Jarencio, being the effective motivator that he is, can find a way to rile up his crew, then these Tigers might just morph from cringers to Battle Cats.

UST 77 – Abdul 21, Fortuna 15, Teng 13, Afuang 8, Ferrer 8, Camus 4, Lo 4, Pe 2, Sheriff 2, Tan 0, Vigil 0
UP 70 – Silungan 19, Gamboa 18, Romero 11, Manuel 6, Maniego 5, Montecastro 3, Mbah 2, Wong 2, Gingerich 2, Wierzba 2, Juruena 0, Pascual 0, Gomez 0, Fortu 0
QS: 22-18, 38-33, 58-52, 77-70
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