Who will be Ateneo’s Finals dance partner? Keys to victory for UST, UP

Championship round or bust. Win or go home.

In Filipino basketball parlance, one team may have to book that trip to “Bora” if they end up losing this afternoon’s sudden death semifinal match inside the Mall of Asia Arena.

Finalist number two of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament will be made known today, as the UST Growling Tigers and the UP Fighting Maroons slug it out for the fourth and final time this season. At stake is a spot in the best-of-three championship series against the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles, who automatically advanced after a 14-0 sweep of the eliminations.

Yet to concede a match to the Bo Perasol-mentored squad this season, the España-based dribblers made it 3-0 over the Maroons courtesy of an 89-69 shellacking last Sunday, extending their stepladder semifinals clash to a winner-take-all duel.

Will UST continue their magical run in Season 82, or will UP book that second-straight trip to the finals? FOX Sports Philippines rolls out the keys to victory for both teams:

Keys to victory for UST

Similar to all their encounters this season, UST has favored a quicker tempo over UP. With guys like Mark Nonoy, Rhenz Abando, Renzo Subido and Brent Paraiso always on the prowl for leak outs and fast break opportunities, the Aldin Ayo-mentored Tigers have been attacking the Maroons early and not allowing their opponents to settle in their defensive positions. Especially with Nonoy, UST oftentimes catch UP’s defense napping on the fast break, allowing the Tigers to go for higher percentage shots near the rim.

Aside from their transition offense, three-point shooting has been the bread and butter this year. Living and dying by the three, the Tigers have won – and lost – games this season depending on their makes from beyond the arc. Apart from the four aforementioned players, gunners Sherwin Concepcion and CJ Cansino should make sure that their long bombs fall through the net. Else, those long rebounds off misses would be easy pickings for the likes of Bright Akhuetie, Noah Webb or Javi Gomez de Liaño.

Defensively, the Tigers should still keep the shackles locked in on Kobe Paras. UP’s ace wing was limited to just nine points last Sunday, struggling all game-long on 4-of-13 (31%) field goal shooting and missing all of his four attempts from the three-point region. Whatever scheme they had or whoever was tasked to contain Paras in their previous match must be revisited by Ayo and his wards.

Keys to victory for UP

Bench scoring became a challenge for the Maroons last Sunday. In an off-the-bench role, Javi Gomez de Liaño waxed hot with team-high 20 points on a respectable 50% field goal clip. The rest of the UP backups? They mustered just five points, bringing the Maroons’ bench scoring total to 25. Over at UST, the triumvirate of Nonoy, Abando and Concepcion conspired for 45 of their 51 bench points, doubling up on their UP counterparts.

The Maroons’ three-point shooting also went downhill in their first semifinal encounter against UST. Javi Gomez de Liaño went off for 3-of-6 shooting from downtown in the previous contest. The rest of the Maroons, though, went 0-of-11. Call it fighting fire with fire, but UP has to match UST’s firepower from the three-point line to keep things close.

Paras should also shake off the rust and rediscover his shooting touch fast. The Maroons cannot afford a similar stat line from Paras with their tournament lives now on the line. While Akhuetie may be of similar value for the team, UP’s fate hinges on Paras’ performance on the floor.

(Photos courtesy of the UAAP)

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