The Games That Play Us: Of Statement Games and Green Pants

It's that time of the year again! #CollegeBasketball #UAAP77
Those green pants tho...

UAAP Season 77 opened with a bang this past weekend thanks to some statement games from UE, FEU, Ateneo, and NU, while DLSU made, well, its own fashion statement.

UE with a statement game against lowly UP
Raise your hand if you pegged Dan Alberto to lead UE in scoring in its first game of the season. Yes, he had that great game against Ateneo in Season 76, scoring 14 points in the Warriors’ first round W (72-68) over the Eagles. This time around, Alberto canned 5 triples on his way to a team-high 15 markers, leading the Reds to a rousing blowout of the hapless Maroons. This was unexpected, of course, but perhaps even more surprising was ace playmaker Roi Sumang dropping just 7 points. Sumang shot 3/8 from the field overall and was visibly content being the main facilitator for his teammates. He handed out a game-high 6 assists.

If you’re a UE fan, however, you probably salivated more about the play of one Moustapha Arafat. Standing 6’6, Arafat is as big as most UAAP centers already, but he’s much more agile, able to thrive on the wings. He was a beast on both ends of the floor here, scoring 7 points, hauling down 15 rebounds, and blocking 2 shots as UE just waylaid the Diliman quintet. If he continues this kind of production, look for Arafat to be a sleeper candidate for the league’s Mythical Five by season’s end and for UE to be a legit title contender.

A team that won’t be a contender, though, is UP. Not that that was a big surprise, but, come on, this batch of Maroons should’ve put up a better fight, right? I applaud the combined 29 points of Kyles Lao and former Bedan Dave Moralde, but they shot 10/25 from the floor to get that point total. That just won’t cut it. The fact of the matter is UP was problematic in two key areas — shooting and rebounding. As a unit, the Maroons shot 20/71 from the floor and squandered their 25 free throws by missing 10. They also got clobbered on the glass, with the bigger Warriors more than doubling up UP’s rebound total, 58-27. Coach Rey Madrid’s wards actually had good stretches on defense (they forced 27 TOs from UE), but ballgames in the UAAP cannot be won with spurts of good play. UP has to be consistent, but, unfortunately, they just look consistently bad.

Make no mistake, with this win, UE sent a clear message to the rest of the field: We’re here to fight for the title. This is a team that has weapons in all positions. This is a team that’s extra-motivated, being the hosts of Season 77. This is a team with renewed vigor. This is a team that’s ready to spring more surprises.

Gino Jumao-as looked mighty confident against UP.

Moustapha Arafat looks like a difference-maker for UE.

Rey Gallarza tries a teardrop over Gino Jumao-as.

DLSU sure made a statement with those green pants
Are they Santa’s elves exiled from the north pole? Are they Robin Hood’s merry men looking for loot outside Sherwood Forest? Are they leprechauns wronged by how awful the Celtics were last season in the NBA?


They are the coaches of the De La Salle Green Archers, reigning UAAP men’s basketball kings.

And they are wearing pants that are so green that even Mother Nature wouldn’t be caught dead in them.

What were they thinking? Paging Santa, or Robin Hood, or the Boston Celtics.
(image by Sace Natividad/

I’m no fashion guru (hell no), but, man, even I cringed a bit when I saw coaches Juno, Jun, and Allan looking like green-hued versions of Santa’s little helpers.

Too bad the fashion statement didn’t do much to help DLSU open the season with a victory.

FEU made an even bigger statement by beating the champs
The win, instead, belonged to the Tamaraws, who are now, clearly, Mike Tolomia’s team. Tolomia and Mac Belo teamed up to score 23 and 20 points respectively, leading FEU past the team that eliminated them in the Final Four last season.

DLSU actually looked firmly in control after the initial 10 minutes, leading, 23-10, heading to the second stanza. The Morayta five, however, had other plans. Coach Nash Racela’s posse was fearless in attacking DLSU’s defense straight up, often going down to the likes of Rogery Pogoy and having him work the D of Jeron Teng.

Tolomia, for his part, was struggling. This was a guy supposed to inherit the mantle of leadership from Terrence Romeo and RR Garcia, but he failed to score in the first quarter and had just three points by the half. He shot 1/7 from the floor and was visibly bothered by La Salle’s tight defense. Things changed in the second half, though. Tolomia started to hit his stride, scoring 7 points in the third period and then pouring the heat in the fourth, dropping 13 markers. He was much more aggressive after the break, attacking the basket, launching threes with confidence, and finding teammates for easy buckets. In the fourth, he hit three triples from practically the same spot (right side wing facing the basket)! In addition to his scoring, the FEU-FERN product also registered 5 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1 steal. He hit four treys in all. If this is anything to go by, then how well Tolomia plays will dictate how far the Tams will go this season.

The Green Archers, meanwhile, just couldn’t make the big baskets and big stops in the endgame. They went 35% from the field and 40% from the line in the payoff period, and that practically doomed their chances. Last year’s Finals heroes — Jeron Teng and Almond Vosotros — paired up to shoot just 1/7 in the final 10 minutes, while Teng and Norbert Torres had big bricks from the charity stripe. It also didn’t help that Jason Perkins, who had 11 points and 11 boards, fouled out. Look for the champs to bounce back in their next game, which is against Ateneo.

Abu Tratter debuted well for DLSU.

Mac Belo dropped 20 big ones on the champs.

Mike Tolomia was unstoppable in the second half as FEU pulled
the rug from under DLSU.

Ateneo began with an emphatic win over Adamson
Speaking of Ateneo, the Blue Eagles made their own statement in their rout of Adamson, 79-57. Behind a renewed Kiefer Ravena (all healthy now thanks to NOT having to shoot commercials right before the season), the Loyola five made short work of the rookie-laden Soaring Falcons, who just couldn’t recover from their disastrous start.

Coach Bo Perasol’s wards came out of the gates really strong, shooting threes and making high-percentage baskets. They forced Adamson to commit 6 turnovers in the first quarter alone, and converted these to 9 points off TOs. Kiefer and Chris Newsome combined for 13 of Ateneo’s 24 first quarter points.

In the second period, Ateneo didn’t let up, but this time the Eagles showcased the depth of their rookie class. The highlight, of course, was prized recruit Arvin Tolentino from San Beda. The many-time RP Youth team standout indeed stood out, nailing a couple of triples on his way to 10 points in the quarter. Fellow greenhorns John Apacible and Clint Doliguez, both from Hope Christian HS, also gave good accounts of themselves, playing tenacious defense and scoring from around the basket.

From then on, the Eagles coasted, content with preserving the victory instead of continuing to pound on their foes from San Marcelino. Kiefer, as expected, led the way with 22 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals, while Newsome added 12 markers, 8 boards, 3 dimes, and 2 rejections. For his part, Tolentino tallied a dozen points in just 17 minutes of play.

As for the Falcons, coach Kenneth Duremdes can take solace in the fact his boys played toe-to-toe with Ateneo in the second half. The bright spots were veteran Jansen Rios and rookie Ivan Villanueva from Letran HS. Both guys dropped 15 points in this match. Villanueva, who looks to be the UAAP’s version of Extra Rice, Inc., also had 9 rebounds to his name.

This was a great way for Ateneo to tell the rest of the UAAP that it was back, and it meant business. This was exactly the kind of start Kiefer and Co. needed to for Season 77, a season where the Eagles are hoping to redeem themselves and return to the Final Four.

Arvin Tolentino wasn't shy about taking those shots.

Kiefer Ravena is projected to have an MVP-ish season.

Former Green Archer Ponso Gotladera debuts for the Blue Eagles.

NU showed no signs of missing Parks and Mbe after beating UST
Opening weekend’s final game saw the Bulldogs massacre the Growling Tigers, 59-40. This was not really a case of NU playing splendidly (they shot just 42% from the field and 45% from the line), but, rather, a case of UST playing way below its level.

Behind new coach Bong Dela Cruz, the Tigers struggled to get into any sort of rhythm. They shot 4/15 in the first quarter and turned the ball over 5 times. Expected leading scorers Kevin Ferrer and Karim Abdul combined or a grand total of 2 points after the first ten minutes. Yikes.

Things were still tight throughout the first half, but NU opened the game up in the last two quarters. Behind the exploits of Troy Rosario and Gelo Alolino, the Bulldogs turned a 4-point advantage at the break into a 16-point bubble entering the final frame. That was basically all she wrote as UST continued to fumble on both ends.

Alolino eventually topped the scoring for NU with 13 points, while Rosario added 9. Alfred Aroga and rookie Rev Diputado each delivered 8 markers as the Bulldogs go into their game against UP next weekend on a high.

As for the España five, well, they couldn’t have asked for a worse start. They committed 26 turnovers in all — Kevin Ferrer had 7, Abdul had 5, and Sheak Sheriff had 4 — made just 2 of 17 triples, and connected on only 29% of their two-point field goal attempts. One can oversimplify things and say they missed the shooting prowess of Jeric Teng, but the reality is UST cannot win with its top three guys — Abdul, Ferrer, and Mariano — combining to nail just 8 of their 38 FG attempts. No way.

I also found it a little strange that highly-touted rookie PG Renzo Subido played just 5 minutes. UST could have used his spunk and shooting, especially when they were being waylaid in the second half. The former DLSZ Junior Archer finished with 3 points, 3 boards, and 1 steal in his short stint.

It’s not like things will get any easier for UST, too, since they have the Red Warriors up next this Thursday.

As for NU, well, this result made one thing very clear — they might actually be better WITHOUT both Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe. Who would have thought?

Gelo Alolino looks to lead this year's Bulldogs.

Veteran Glenn Khobuntin launches one from long distance.

Karim Abdul is under duress in the paint against NU.

Unless otherwise specified, all images are by Jan Dizon/

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2 Comment

Coach Sauler mentioned there were lessons to be learned from their opening day loss. Lesson 1 should be: don't be a distraction to your own team. Those St Patrick's Day greenie pants were so horrible the Las Salle players themselves didn't want to be caught anywhere near them. You can be stylish, but don't try to upstage your own team's players.


It isn't the pants nor the's what's in those pants! DLSU may not have won that game....but they'll never be blue about it.