UAAP Season 79 signifies a fresh start for both the DLSU Green Archers and the UST Growling Tigers. With Ben Mbala and head coach Aldin Ayo in the fold, La Salle is revitalized, looking like a different team in their two victories thus far. For UST, the loss of veterans Kevin Ferrer, Ed Daquioag, and Karim Abdul has the squad looking for a consistent go-to scorer in crucial moments.
When both teams square off tomorrow, September 14, at 4 pm in the Mall of Asia Arena, expect things to be different since both the team composition and coaching have gone through noticeable changes.
The Growling Tigers swept the season series last year, with both wins coming after DLSU raced to double-digit leads that disappeared in the second half. UST erased a 14-point second quarter deficit to take a 77-61 victory in La Salle’s first round finale, while the Green Archers were limited to 13 points in the final quarter of their 81-79 loss to UST in the second round.
The Green Archers coasted to an 89-71 victory over the UP Fighting Maroons to clinch their second victory in as many outings this season. In a game that saw Ayo field all his active players, La Salle capitalized on UP’s 34 turnovers, handing last season’s hosts their second loss in as many games.
With Mbala facing a different set of defenders versus those from FEU, the first-year player from Cameroon powered his way to 30 points, 14 rebounds, and two blocks. Three more players finished in double figures, with Jeron Teng and Abu Tratter scoring 12 points each, while Jollo Go added 11 in the win. Paul Desiderio scored 21 points on 22 shots to lead UP, while Jett Manuel added 13 in the loss.
UST bounced back from their opening day loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles by pulling off a come-from-behind 88-87 win over the UE Red Warriors. Staring at a 12-point deficit, the Growling Tigers scored 30 points in the third quarter to clinch their first win this season.
Former La Salle Zobel Junior Archer Renzo Subido poured in a game-high 26 points to lead UST, while Jon Sheriff added 15 points before fouling out in the game’s final moments. Bon Bon Batiller and Nick Abanto each had 15 points to lead UE in the loss.
Keys to victory
Against UST, the Green Archers will look to feed Mbala in the post in order to utilize the absence of Abdul, who played his final year of eligibility in Season 78. DLSU’s depth will surely help them in this game as they will have the likes of Julian Sargent, Aljun Melecio, and Kib Montalbo able to cover the likes of Subido and Marvin Lee, both of whom played a crucial part in the Growling Tigers’ last victory.
This year’s hosts will have to take care of the ball if they want to stay at pace with the Green Archers. With DLSU’s size and depth posing concerns for UST, the Growling Tigers will have to exert more effort on both ends of the floor in order to pull off a potential upset.
Both teams enter this game with victories that have boosted their confidence in different ways. For the Green Archers, being the “team to beat” is more than just a label as their mayhem system demonstrated their relentless effort on both ends of the floor. Meanwhile, UST comes into this game knowing they can overcome big deficits and full-court pressure, like the one thrown at them by UE.
After tomorrow, one team will not only have a winning streak, but will also be able to hold its spot at the upper half of the standings, a crucial position in what is turning out to be a competitive season.