UAAP host UP seeks to start winning ways vs defensive-minded UE

Former Batang Gilas stalwart Diego Dario hopes to turn UP Maroons fortunes around in the UAAP Season 78. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- A team that can score (UP) versus a team that can defend (UE).

UP at a quick glance:
What the Fighting Maroons have going for them are their veteran players who they have an abundance: Jet Manuel, Paul Desiderio, JR Gallarza, Mark Juruena, Henry Asilum, and Dave Moralde.

And there's Diego Dario and Jan Jaboneta who will contribute a lot to this team in terms of points and hustle respectively.

What makes them cause for concern is their hunger and boy, are they hungry. Being hosts this year is added incentive. Plus, they play with a lot of emotion.

Yes, you might have heard that before but this year, bolstered by prized rookie recruits (Jaboneta, Pio Longa, Noah Webb), and addition to the center slot in Cheick Kone, a pre-season title (FBA), they boldly proclaimed that they are shooting for a Final Four slot.

Their frontline still has a lot of questions. Kone will need help from the always game Gelo Vito, Moralde, Juruena even if he prefers to play outside, and Andrew Harris to clog the lane, rebounds, and play defense. How their frontline holds will also tell on their fortunes.

It isn't some pipe dream. You will see them attack, hustle, and bang about. They won't be easy pickings for sure.

UE at a quick glance:
How that clashes with Derrick Pumaren's UE team is interesting. Pumaren's team are stoic machines of destruction. They play full court throttling defense until they either fall into foul trouble or the game is out of reach.

Yes, they play full court defense. There are a couple of questions that need to be answered here:
Can they translate forced and unforced turnovers into points?
How long can they sustain their defensive efforts without that rim protector they enjoyed the past two years?
Are they fit enough?

There are more questions:
Can Edgar Charcos, Philip Manalang, and Fran Yu solidify the point guard slot?
Can Paul Varilla and Renz Palma provide a lot of leadership, presence, and scoring to lead this team? They were very inconsistent and if they want to win they have to be on the court.
Can Chris Javier and RR De Leon (along with Daryyl Cudal) provide offence and defense inside that lane? They have had time to adjust without the presence of Bertrand Awana who could have been that rim protector they needed to replace Charles Mammie. But he at best played a few quality minutes. Not as much as they'd like.
Can Jordan Sta. Ana replace Roi Sumang?

My initial observations are:
They've got good and serviceable guards. Another year of seasoning and they'll be studs.
The problem with Paul and Renz is they are streaky. They need to be consistent and on the floor for UE as opposed to leaving their fate to the bench. And Pumaren has time and again shown that he is willing to sit starters and play the youngsters if they put in more effort.
This is Chris Javier's time. He didn't adjust to the presence of Mammie. With the less offensive-minded Awana, he was just as inconsistent. He is playing not only for UE's success but his chances in the next PBA draft.
Jordan can score. He just needs to be quicker with his decisions and more experienced.

Game situation:
Look for UE to trap. But UP has a lot of guards who can not only bring down that ball but who can also finish.

Aside from shooting from the outside, look for UP's Desiderio, Moralde, or even Jaboneta to try and post up their man. UE must be aware of this and the switches as the Maroons will try to look for mismatches.

On a half-court set, UP is better so it is in UE's best interests to run or make it an uptempo game. But UP likes to run as well.

It will come down to defense and who can impose what game plan on the other.

Right now, UP is favoured over UE. They will carry the euphoria of what will surely be an incredible opening program being UAAP hosts this year. UE will have to play the perfect game to play the party pooper. 

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