Close but not quite might aptly describe UP's struggles against UST last season. In round one, the Tigers were seconds away from becoming the Maroons' first win, but a free throw by Jeric Teng forced overtime, where the Tigers rolled, giving them an 87-81 win. Another game of catch-up broke out in the fourth quarter of their round two encounter, as the Tigers needed a 23-15 fourth quarter to come up with a two-point win, 68-66.
Stat to Watch : The part that Coach Jarencio's boys still haven't figured out is how to stop the fastbreak, as they currently allow the most fastbreak attempts with 11.2 a game. That's something UP will look to take advantage of, seeing as how they're second to only Ateneo in attempts per game (12.2) and points scored off fastbreaks (17.6)
Player to Watch : Jeric Teng has been UST's designated defender for the season, and this time, he has a huge task ahead of him, what with four dynamite backcourt scoring options for UP in Mike Gamboa, Mike Silungan, Jett Manuel and Jelo Montecastro. He can stop one, but guys like Jeric Fortuna will have to step up to cover the other man. On offense, he ought to attack the rim to get Alinko Mbah in foul trouble, exposing the extremely shallow frontcourt rotation of the Maroons.
Stat to Watch : Here's a contrast in styles: UP is last in allowed 3-point percentage, with opponents going to town with a 27.4% average (in their defense, it was as high as 32.45% before the FEU game). UST on the other hand, shuts down the perimeter, allowing 18.28% of threes to connect. If either one of the numbers hold, UP might be in trouble.
Player to Watch : Opting to concentrate his energy on the defensive end, Mike Gamboa stuck to RR Garcia like glue, and did a good job of limiting last season's MVP. He should try to replicate his success by covering Jeric Fortuna, who has a knack of hitting some big, clutch shots.
Prediction: UP Fighting Maroons