Despite the absence of reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala, the DLSU Green Archers prevailed over the FEU Tamaraws, 95-90, earlier today at the Mall of Asia Arena. Aljun Melecio led La Salle with a 29-point performance, while Ron Dennison scored 21 points for the Tamaraws in the losing effort. Meanwhile, forward Abu Tratter contributed a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.
“We just played our game. Yung depensa and yung offense also. It was a total team effort,” said head coach Aldin Ayo following their close win.
Lopsided first half
It was a familiar sight as La Salle opened the game with intensity on both offense and defense. Scoring came in bulk for the Green Archers with Melecio leading the charge. The sophomore scored nine quick points in the first quarter, six of which came from two three-pointers. Rookie Santi Santillan, however, struggled with foul trouble early on, as he committed three fouls in the first period. It proved to be a one-sided affair as the opening quarter ended with DLSU on top of FEU, 29-11.
The domination continued for La Salle in the second quarter while the Tamaraws continued to be on the opposite end of the spectrum. The Green Archers’ frenetic defense forced FEU to commit 15 turnovers in the first half. While DLSU was shooting lights out, converting 27 points on the perimeter, the Tamaraws only managed to score once from the outside.
The offensive showcase for La Salle was highlighted by Melecio finishing the opening half with 20 points. They, however, missed the inside presence of Mbala as they only managed to score 10 points in the paint compared to FEU’s 22. At halftime, the Green Archers stayed on top with a 47-32 lead over the Tamaraws.
The tide shifted at the start of the third quarter. FEU, led by Dennison, began to close the gap. A lay-in by the guard at the 7:08 mark brought his team to within single digits, 49-40. Their momentum, however, was broken as Kib Montalbo, who scored zero points in the first half, drained his first three-pointer of the night. The off-guard would then convert two more three-pointers to make his third quarter total reach nine points. Despite the increase in intensity of FEU’s play, the Tamaraws were still unable to regain the lead as La Salle entered the fourth quarter with a 73-54 advantage.
“Dehydrated iyon,” Ayo commended his team’s captain after the game. “Galing sa dextrose and hindi 100 per cent yun. Hindi mo matatawaran yung ugali ng bata na iyan.”
Two consecutive field goals from Hubert Cani opened the final quarter up for the Tamaraws. La Salle seemed to be unable to counter the offensive barrage of FEU, as the atter scored 36 points in the fourth quarter while DLSU, just 22. However, the Green Archers fought off the Tamaraws with their free throw shooting, shooting 82 per cent on the line while FEU shot only a mere 59 percent.
As La Salle led, 90-85, veteran Andrei Caracut committed a crucial turnover which helped shift the momentum to FEU’s side in the dying minutes of the game. The Green Archers did not let go, though, as they continued to show hustle and grit, reaching out for every loose ball. Despite the effort of the Tamaraws to come back from their deficit, La Salle proved to be too much to handle for FEU as the Green-and-White walked away with the 95-90 victory.
“Breakdown on defense and decision making on offense. We’re still a young team so there were some questionable decisions in crunch time, just like Aljun’s shot at the end of the game, but I know he’ll learn from it,” Ayo explained after almost losing the lead.
Following this closely fought win, DLSU will face the NU Bulldogs on Saturday, September 16, at 2 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
DLSU 95 – Melecio 29, Caracut 16, Montalbo 12, Tratter 11, Santillan 9, R. Rivero 7, Baltazar 4, Go 3, R. Rivero 2, Paraiso 2, Capacio 0
FEU 90 – Dennison 21, Comboy 13, Orizu 12, Tuffin 10, Cani 7, Tolentino 7, Parker 7, Inigo 5, Escoto 5, Trinidad 3, Nunag 0, Ebona 0, Bienes 0
Quarter scores: 29-11, 47-32, 73-54, 95-90