The DLSU Green Archers survived the first test of their UAAP Season 79 campaign after they took down the FEU Tamaraws, 83-78, earlier today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Despite building a 16-point lead in the second half, the Green Archers needed key baskets from Jeron Teng down the stretch to put the defending champions away.
Teng led all scorers with 28 points, while Ben Mbala asserted himself after scoring 13 points and grabbing a game-high 23 rebounds. Aljun Melecio had a solid UAAP debut after finishing with 10 points and two steals.
“A win is a win. That was a hard fought game,” DLSU head coach Aldin Ayo said after the match, adding that he observed the team seemed rusty during certain stretches of the game.
Green Archers create distance
DLSU scored the first two baskets of the game, but FEU quickly recovered and managed to hold a slim lead throughout the opening quarter. Mbala could not establish himself offensively but asserted himself on the defensive end with an emphatic block on FEU’s Prince Orizu. Momentum swung into La Salle’s favor after Kib Montalbo completed a four-point play to tie the game at 20 with 1:34 left in the first quarter.
Raymar Jose answered with a three-point play, but free throws from Abu Tratter and a three-pointer from Jollo Go gave La Salle a 26-23 lead with 40 seconds left in the first quarter. Montalbo scored on a fastbreak layup, while Monbert Arong made two free throws to bring FEU to within three, 28-25, at quarter’s end.
The Green Archers’ second unit provided the push they needed to extend the lead, as Melecio went on a solo 8-0 run to put La Salle ahead by nine points, 36-27, with 7:23 left before halftime. Teng would score eight of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter, with his basket at the 5:07 mark giving DLSU it’s largest lead of the first half, 42-31.
FEU would respond with a 9-2 run that brought them to within four,
44-40, with three minutes left in the second quarter. La Salle countered with an 11-3 run, highlighted by baskets from Teng and Andrei Caracut. The Green Archers remained in control as they took a 51-43 lead at halftime, with another Mbala block sending the DLSU crowd into a frenzy.
“A lot of adjustments. It was pretty hard,” Mbala said when asked to comment on his performance.
Tamaraws charge back
The Green Archers continued to hold a sizable margin over the defending champions during the third quarter, extending their lead to 16, 64-48, on a Prince Rivero basket. With their backs against the wall, the Tamaraws closed out the third quarter on a 15-2 run, capped off by a dunk from Orizu and a basket from Kenneth Tuffin, to bring FEU to within three, 66-63, heading into the final quarter.
Both teams would continue to trade baskets in the fourth quarter, with Allen Trinidad tying the game at 74 with 3:50 left in the game. In the end, Teng and Mbala would score DLSU’s last nine points in the game to put the Tamaraws away. Orizu and Trinidad would try to bring FEU closer with their trips to the free throw line, but Teng converted on two of his own four attempts at the free throw line to seal the victory for La Salle.
“Magkaiba yung laro nitong dalawa,” Ayo said on Teng and Mbala, two of the players he knows he will rely on this season.
Five FEU players scored in double figures, with Ron Dennison, Trinidad, and Arong finishing with 13, 12, and 11 points, respectively. Orizu and Wendell Comboy added 10 points each, with the former grabbing 10 rebounds for the Tamaraws.
DLSU shot the ball better as they made 47 percent of their field goals as compared to the 41 percent of FEU. The Tamaraws took care of the ball well as they finished with 17 turnovers, while they forced DLSU to commit 27 errors.
La Salle dominated the rebounding battle, as they grabbed 50 rebounds versus FEU’s 38 rebounds. DLSU had six blocks in the victory, while the Tamaraws only had one against the Green Archers.
The Green Archers will have a few days to recover before they head over to the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, where they will face the UP Fighting Maroons on Saturday, September 10, at 4 pm.
“The goal is to win the championship and nothing else,” Teng said as he remained adamant that winning it all was his and his team’s main priority.
DLSU 83 – Teng 28, Mbala 13, Melecio 10, Tratter 7, Montalbo 6, Rivero 6, Torres 4, Caracut 4, Go 3, Sargent 2, Baltazar 0.
FEU 78 – Dennison 13, Trinidad 12, Arong 11, Orizu 10, Comboy 10, Jose 7, Iñigo 7, Tuffin 4, Escoto 2, Nunag 2, Bayquin 0, Holmqvist 0, Ebona 0
Quarterscores: 28-25, 51-43, 66-63, 83-78