The DLSU Green Archers will look to push their unbeaten run this season to nine games as they take on the UP Fighting Maroons in the second round of eliminations. Currently holding a 3-6 win-loss record, it is easy to overlook the Fighting Maroons. Fresh off back-to-back wins against the ADMU Blue Eagles and AdU Soaring Falcons, however, the team from Katipunan is confident and rejuvenated heading into tomorrow’s game.
The expected return of Jeron Teng should be a welcome sight for the Lasallian community even as the Green Archers have continued to play cohesively in his absence.
First round matchup
In the two teams’ first round matchup, it was an aggressive Ben Mbala who helped La Salle to an overpowering, 89-71 victory over UP. It was truly a breakout game for the MVP frontrunner, as he imposed his will by scoring 30 points on 75 percent shooting, while also adding 14 rebounds and two blocks. Along with 12 points each from Teng and Abu Tratter, it was smooth sailing for the Green-and-White right from the opening tip.
Paul Desiderio tried to keep the Fighting Maroons within reach by scoring 21 points, but it was not enough to overcome the 34 turnovers the team committed against Aldin Ayo’s “Mayhem” defense. UP will have to take better care of the basketball to stay at pace with the number one team in UAAP Season 79.
Battle of the backcourts
While Mbala has been DLSU’s focal point this season, the Fighting Maroons do not seem to have any individual who can stand toe-to-toe with the Cameroonian. Andrew Harris and Gelo Vito struggled in the first round to slow down Mbala and frontcourt mate, Tratter. In the backcourt a major key for the Fighting Maroons will be to prevent La Salle’s guards from distributing the ball to its post players. Dave Moralde, who is third in the league at 1.9 steals a game, will look to make things difficult for Thomas Torres and the rest of the DLSU backcourt.
On offense, Jett Manuel has stepped up for UP and has emerged as a scoring partner to Desiderio. Now averaging 15.6 points per game, Manuel has climbed the scoring rankings as he is now 5th in the league in the said category.
Another asset for the Green Archers will be the depth of their bench. Kib Montalbo, Jollo Go, and Aljun Melecio have all emerged as trustworthy substitutes for the team from Taft. Ricci Rivero is also coming off a 14-point performance in the team’s most recent victory over the Soaring Falcons. The possible return of Teng will also give DLSU more than enough ball handlers to break down the UP defense.
The Green Archers and the Fighting Maroons face off tomorrow, Saturday, October 15, at 2 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.