Despite already being the first team to secure a Final Four spot in the UAAP Season 79 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the undefeated DLSU Green Archers have no intentions of slowing down as they face the UST Growling Tigers in this second round match-up.
First round match
In their first meeting, the Green Archers routed UST in the latter’s worst loss of the season, 100-62, behind a balanced attack which saw four DLSU players scoring in double figures. Ben Mbala led the way with 18 points and 16 rebounds while Jeron Teng added 15 points, five rebounds, and two steals. Renzo Subido paced the Growling Tigers with 18 points while John Sheriff was the only other Growling Tiger to score in double digits with 11 points.
Keeping a 44-35 lead at halftime, the Green-and-White shut the door on UST in the second half with a 29-point third quarter eruption while holding the Growling Tigers to nine points. La Salle’s defense overwhelmed UST throughout the game, forcing the team from Espana to commit 40 turnovers, the highest total by any team in the season so far.
Keys to victory
For La Salle to repeat its mastery over the Growling Tigers in the second time around, the Green Archers will need to continue to force turnovers as well as win the battle of the boards.
Mbala will again be called upon to control the game on both ends of the floor. With no individual on the Growling Tigers able to match up with the Cameroonian, it will take a team effort from UST to shut down the Most Valuable Player frontrunner. While it took deliberate post-up moves for Mbala to get his points against NU in their previous game, the rookie may look to to get his points on putbacks this time around. The Green Archers capitalized on their height advantage over the Growling Tigers in their first meeting, as the prior managed to grab a total of 29 offensive rebounds.
Defense for DLSU will translate to offense just like in its previous games. While the Green Archers were able to contain UST team captain Louie Vigil in their first meeting, UST’s guards managed to penetrate the La Salle offense for baskets. Vigil was limited to a measly five points in their first round encounter, a far cry from his 15.4 scoring average this season. As evidenced in DLSU’s recent win against the Bulldogs, the Green-and-White is known for its potent scoring, averaging a league-best 89.6 points through 10 games.
What will be a major factor is whether the Green Archers will be able to dictate the game and force turnovers. Because La Salle leads the league in turnover points, taking care of the basketball will be important for the Growling Tigers.
With UST looking at the Final Four race from the outside the Growling Tigers will enter the game in a must win situation, as they are currently sixth in the team standings with a 3-7 win-loss record. Meanwhile, DLSU will not look to end its unbeaten run at 10 games, playing each game with greater intensity and effort until the title is taken back home to Taft.
Both teams will square off on Sunday, October 23, at 2 pm in the Smart Araneta Coliseum.