Alinko Mbah's improbable game-winner against UE
UP got two great chances to end their winless streak last year against UE, but ultimately came up short both times. In the first round, Paul Lee outdueled Mike Silungan 23 to 20, and the Red Warriors came back in the fourth quarter to get their first victory of the season, 59-54. Then in the last game of the season for both teams, the Maroons blitzed back in the final period, but UE was able to hold them off, behind graduating players James Martinez and Raffy Reyes, dooming UP to another 0-14 futility mark. The Fighting Maroons got revenge over the summer though, as Cameroonian Alinko Mbah nailed an impossible shot with his back to the basket to win their Fil-Oil encounter, 78-76.
Stat to Watch : In the Fil-Oil tournament, UE's lack of height was very telling, as they conceded the most offensive rebounds of all 17 teams, with opponents picking up an average of 20.4 offensive rebounds per game. We'll need to see if that trend continues in the UAAP, especially if Coach Codinera gives Chris Javier minutes, or if he opts to field 6'6" mystery player RR De Leon.
Player to Watch : Roi Sumang suffered a knee injury while playing for UE in the Father Martin Cup and his recovery took most of the summer. He played six games upon his return, averaging just 5.5 points and 2.5 assists, but if he's even close to 100%, this kid can and will tear it up.
Stat to Watch : Mike Silungan came into the league with a reputation for being a big time shooter. Unfortunately, the numbers didn't support that notion, as he finished with a 32.9 FG%, shooting 27.17% from outside the arc. Dandan installed a new system that has him running through a ton of screens before getting, if all things worked out, space for a catch and shoot. As a result, his numbers went up to 47% from the field in the Fil-Oil tournament, and an astounding 41% from downtown. Considering how this guy took forty more shots than the next Maroon (Gamboa), that's huge for this squad, if he can keep it up.
Player to Watch : If opponents focus their defensive intensity on Silungan, Gamboa and Mbah, do you know who benefits? Jett Manuel benefits, that's who. After a mediocre rookie campaign that saw the former Xavier School standout score just 16 points the entire season, the departure of Alvin Padilla and Mark Lopez meant Manuel was the starter at shooting guard, and Manuel immediately took to the role, upping his 3 point percentage to 33%. If he's open, odds are good that he'll knock it down, plus he can handle the ball in a pinch.
Prediction: UP Fighting Maroons