By Gio Gloria
At the conclusion of round one of UAAP Season 85, it can be said that the DLSU Green Archers can be much better than their current win-loss record
On paper, the Green Archers are more stacked and talented than perhaps everyone in the UAAP except the defending champions UP Fighting Maroons. That’s why an early 72-69 loss to the Fighting Maroons, while a heartbreaker, was understandable given UP is the team to beat and a more cohesive unit.
Things were looking up after La Salle racked up consecutive wins against the UST Growling Tigers and the ADMU Blue Eagles. The win against the Blue Eagles, in particular, was a major morale booster since it was not just a win over THE archrival after nearly five years, but it also came thanks to DLSU making big plays down the stretch offensively (a big thank you to Schonny Winston) while also taking care of the ball.
Unfortunately, the rest of the first round saw the ills of last season rear their ugly heads again. Very much winnable games against the UE Red Warriors, AdU Soaring Falcons, and even the NU Bulldogs offset the gains from their sole win against the then-winless FEU Tamaraws. The loss to the Soaring Falcons was especially painful since not only were the Green Archers a stop away from ending the game in regulation, but the loss could have larger implications down the line.
At 3-4, La Salle is caught in a logjam with Adamson and the Red Warriors, both of whom also have win-over-the-other and quotient advantages over DLSU should those come into play at the conclusion of the preliminaries.
The numbers at the end of the first round point to some major woes especially on the defensive end. For a team with a stacked frontcourt, it’s somewhat surprising that the Green Archers gave up a UAAP-worst 49.4 rebounds per game, which largely came due to the also league-worst 19.1 offensive rebounds per game La Salle gave up. All the extra possessions DLSU gave their opponents have been painful even with a sizable lead.
Frustration within the Lasallian community largely stems from the confidence they have in their team given what the Green Archers have shown in the preseason. Breaking a two-season Final Four drought in Season 84, La Salle followed that up by clinching the 2022 PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup. Those naturally generated buzz and promise for Season 85, but a step forward has been followed by a couple of steps back.
Fortunately, DLSU still has an entire second round to play. Stats have indicated a promising defense that forces the most turnovers per game (21.1), blocks the most shots per game (5.3), and gets the most steals per game (13.1) while committing the least fouls per game (16.9)
Free throws will be a perennial problem for the Green Archers, but nonetheless being the UAAP’s highest-scoring offense (79.4 points per game) on a league-best 23.0 assists per game is a good place to be in. The likes of Winston, Kevin Quiambao, Michael Phillips, and Evan Nelle can make big shots and create for each other so getting consistent production from them will be crucial to having a solid second round.
Despite these positive indications, it all boils down to one thing for La Salle: Finishing strong. Numbers can be in DLSU’s favor, but when the game is usually decided by the margins, making the right play would be the only thing that matters the most.
Can the DLSU Green Archers make the Final Four in UAAP Season 85? Yes, but the path to the postseason has gotten more difficult due to some holes they dug for themselves. They know what it takes to succeed, but knowing and doing are two different things.