Just about everyone and their momma thought UP had a better than fair chance of winning this game after seeing the Maroons crush the FEU Tamaraws...only to see UST rally around the loss of Jeric Teng and go on to blow out the Maroons, thanks to heady play by team captain Jeric Fortuna. A 20-12 third quarter proved to be the pivotal period as the Maroons couldn't muster any offense. Ultimately, not a single player from UP scored in double-digits, whereas the Tigers 16 from Fortuna, and 13 from Melo Afuang. With the win, the Tigers provided a blueprint for defeating UP: stop the fast breaks, and first them into long jumpers. (Recap here)
What's at Stake:
- The Fighting Maroons (2-5) are on a two-game skid that started with their first round loss to this team. While already vastly improved from last season, UP still wants to keep getting wins, or at the very least, stay competitive instead of suffering blowout after blowout. They seem to have been well-scouted at this point with their flaws out for the world to see, so the coaching staff will need to cook something up in order to adjust
- The Growling Tigers (3-4) aim to fight for a playoff spot, and to do that, they'd ideally need to keep beating the lower tier teams and spring an upset or two on the squads above them. Accomplishing part one begins with this game against UP. They're also likely to be looking for a bounce back after the near-win against DLSU, and the Maroons are just as good a team as any to take their frustrations out on.
UP Player to Watch : Mike Gamboa has been a disappointment after a 19 point, five rebound, six assist first game versus UE. He hasn't hit double figures since, hasn't gotten more five or more rebounds or assists, and his shooting has just gone down the toilet, making just a single field goal in each of his last three games. It's no wonder UP experimented with starting Jelo Montecastro against Adamson in their last encounter.
UST Player to Watch : Karim Abdul gave the UST faithful flashbacks to Jervy Cruz in their last game against DLSU, as the rookie center suddenly put up 21 points on 7 of 11 field goal shooting and 7 of 10 on charities. It was truly an amazing performance as he had never made more than five field goals and three free throws prior. If Abdul can play like that every game, the Tigers will definitely make the playoffs, but first he has to prove that his performance then was not a fluke against a much better defensive presence: fellow foreign big man Alinko Mbah.
Prediction: UST Growling Tigers