UAAP Opening Weekend Wrap-up

Erwin Oliva
College Hoops

The Opening Ceremonies
What happened
Rain, rain, and more rain. As in literally, it rained on the athletes' parade. The idea of involving athletes from other sports is indeed novel, and the UAAP has been trying to feature non-basketball sports for a number of years already.

To this end, it has had some measure of success with the volleyball games. Involving all athletes in the opening ceremonies was therefore a natural next step. It's how to execute it that's been the problem ever since.

File this under the "it sounded like a good idea at the time" category. July is one of the wettest months of the year, so the chances of rain on July 9 were fairly good. And boy, did it rain. The football field was soaked and did not have good drainage, so much so that there were puddles of water everywhere. The weather was so bad that three of the four schools who had basketball games the following day -- namely FEU, DLSU and Adamson -- didn't allow their basketball teams to march for fear of compromising their health so close to opening day.

The program leading up to the actual parade of athletes could have been better if the performers were not prancing around muddy and wet grass. The condition of the field also slowed down the momentum of Olsen Racela on his way to lighting the flame, and it took away a little bit of the drama.

Also, I thought the show was just a little too Ateneo-centric. Yes, Ateneo was the host, and there's an unwritten rule that the host can indulge a bit in some breast-beating during the opening ceremonies. But if you're trying to make this season more than just about basketball, then it might have been better to tone down the "hey, look at us" rhetoric.

For instance, the emcees, who were all Ateneo graduates, started the program by discussing the upcoming parade, and how this opening would be very different because it would be the first to involve all the other sports. Well and good. But after that, they couldn't stop talking about Ateneo's four-peat aspirations. For a non-Atenean, it somehow felt off. After all, majority of the crowd came from the seven other schools. Not sure if they enjoyed listening to all that.

The parade itself wasn't that bad, but again, it could have been better for the athletes if they weren't made to stand in the mud for nearly an hour. All in all, the Olympic-style concept was good, but very ambitious. Unless someone builds a stadium with a retractable roof, or the UAAP opening is pushed back to summer, it might be better to keep it indoors next time.

FEU 74, DLSU 65
What happened

RR Garcia happened. The reigning UAAP MVP poured in 17 of his 21 points in the second half to help turn back the Archers. Garcia scattered 10 points in the payoff period, including two big triples, as the Tamaraws erected a 10-point lead late that they used as a cushion to thwart a last-minute La Salle surge that cut the lead to four.

Smart Gilas player Aldrech Ramos also came up big with 16 points and 8 rebounds, while ex-Gilas member JR Cawaling was the third Tamaraw in double figures with 10. The Archers had trouble all game long in their halfcourt set, especially with their only outside sniper Joseph Marata seeing limited minutes due to a hamstring injury. The other shooters couldn't find their range, and the team made only two triples the entire game. Meanwhile, the deep frontline rotation of Norbert Torres, Papot Paredes, Arnold Van Opstal, Jovet Mendoza, Ponso Gotaldera and Maui Villanueva had only 13 points combined.

La Salle's vaunted press and running game, which they rely on for quick points, wasn't too effective against a veteran team like FEU. Garcia, Terrence Romeo, Jens Knuttel and rookie Cris Tolomia easily handled the Archers' defensive pressure, and FEU actually had more turnover points than La Salle.

The bright spot was the triumphant return of point guard LA Revilla from a two-year absence due to an assortment of illnesses that nearly ended his playing career prematurely. But Revilla was the only Archer in double digits with 18, and the team as a whole shot less than 30% from the field.

Ateneo 55, Adamson 51
What happened
Zero points in almost seven playing minutes happened. Adamson was ahead 51-44 with 6:58 left and looked poised to beat Ateneo for the first time since 1997. But somehow, the Falcons found a new way to lose to the Blue Eagles, failing to score a single point the rest of the way in an astonishing display of horrible offense.

Coach Leo Austria's game plan was simple: single coverage on man-mountain Greg Slaughter, let him get his points, then clamp down on the others. And for the first 33 minutes of the game, it worked.

Slaughter checked out with 23 points, the only Eagle to break double digits, in an impressive UAAP debut.The Falcons put Austin Manyara on him, and the Kenyan import had his hands full as he was simply too small to negate Slaughter's height and heft advantage. The ploy could have paid off if only Adamson had made one or two baskets down the stretch.

Slaughter shot 9-of-14, while the rest of the team sputtered to shoot an ugly 9-of-40.
Yet those stats became irrelevant because Ateneo scored -- and Adamson didn't —- when it mattered most: in the end game. The Blue Eagles came up with a few good defensive plays down the stretch, but during those seven minutes, it was more of Adamson playing bad offense than Ateneo playing good defense.

Roider Cabrera and Janus Lozada got a few good open looks from outside, Eric Camson ran his favorite turnaround move a couple of times, and the two-headed point guard of Jerick Canada and Lester Alvarez took their usual jumpers. Nothing dropped, and because of that the losing streak now stretches to 29 games.