With both teams in transition last year, albeit in different directions, the NU Bulldogs punctuated their upswing movement by sweeping the UE Red Warriors, sending them further along a downward spiral. In the first round, hot shooting by Paul Lee and James Martinez wasn't enough to beat forwards Glenn Khobuntin and Melvin Baloran, especially when backed by Emmanuel Mbe's then-customary double-double, resulting in a 70-63 win. The game was much closer in round two, with the Red Warriors clawing to within a point, but clutch play down the stretch boosted NU, and Paul Lee's drive fell short, letting the Bulldogs escape with a 69-68 win.
Stat to Watch : When you talk about offenses that need an overhaul, you need to single out the Red Warriors who boast of the worst three-point shooting percentage, the worst two-point shooting percentage, and naturally the worst field goal percentage. They're also dead last in steals, blocks and turnovers, and score the least points in the first two quarters. How's that for a grim picture?
Player to Watch : Originally heralded as the savior of UE basketball, Roi Sumang had the misfortune of suffering a huge knee injury over the summer, taking away part of what made him so darn special. Through six games, he's averaged just 4.8 minutes, 3.8 rebounds, and 2 assists, while shooting 32.35% from the field. Last Sunday versus La Salle was probably a low point for him too, as he played just six minutes, despite the blowout nature of the game. We'll see if he can bounce back versus NU...or if he stays stapled to the bench again.
Stat to Watch : Despite having Emmanuel Mbe down low, backed up by Marion Magat, and well, Spencer Eman, the Bulldogs simply can't defend the paint, allowing the most attempts and conversions on points in the paint, allowing opponents on average, 38.33 per game. If that trend continues against this tiny UE team, then you just know that's a fatal flaw for the Bulldogs.
Player to Watch : When Denice Villamor shows up to play, good things happen for the Bulldogs. Villamor brings a nice mix of size, outside shooting and rebounding, making him fill in numerous gaps for NU, but the problem is he's widely inconsistent, and needs a ton of minutes to perform (his average drops to 2 points, 2.33 rebounds in stints less than 20 minutes). Can Coach Altamirano spare those minutes for him? Or will he struggle to guard the likes of Adrian Santos and Erwin Duran?
Prediction: NU Bulldogs