The Green Archers continue to win despite the absence of reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala as they triumphed over the NU Bulldogs, 115-109, in a high scoring affair earlier today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio, and Jollo Go combined to score 60 points for DLSU. Santi Santillan also scored 13 points and grabbed 16 rebounds in the victory. Jordan Bartlett and Jayjay Alejandro led the way for NU, scoring 23 and 18 points, respectively.
“That was a good game. We showed a lot of tenacity, we were resilient. The composure was there. We were able to execute our plays, especially in the end game,” explained coach Aldin Ayo after the hard-fought match.
Ecstatic first half
In what was a high-scoring game, both La Salle and NU were aggressive from the get-go. Abu Tratter led the Green Archers, shooting perfect from the field with 11 points in the first half. The Green Archers trailed 26-23 with 3:07 left in the first quarter, but back-to-back three-pointers from Kib Montalbo and Go placed both teams in a deadlock. DLSU ended the first quarter in front after a three-pointer from Melecio gave them the 31-29 advantage.
The succeeding quarter opened with Go and Alejandro exchanging three-point baskets. Both teams continued to play at a fast pace and were consistent on both ends of the court. Although La Salle led NU, 60-50, in the last three minutes of the half, the Bulldogs clawed their way back with field goals courtesy of Matthew Aquino and Bartlett to cut the deficit to just four.
The two guards, Go and Melecio, had three three-point field goals each in the first half, which was necessary to keep pace with the Bulldogs. Conversely, NU’s Alejandro spearheaded the charge for the Bulldogs, with 12 points and two steals. Despite being known for their hostile pressure defense, the Lasallians were caught with more turnovers than NU. Unforced errors from the Green-and-White paved way to their ten turnovers, compared to just six from the Bulldogs. La Salle, though, maintained its lead over NU, 65-61, coming into half-time.
Thrilling second half
The Bulldogs quickly got the lead back as they scored six straight points to start the quarter before Justine Baltazar grabbed an offensive rebound and scored to tie the game at 67. NU, however, answered back with another 6-0 run, highlighted by an acrobatic lay-up by Bartlett. Baltazar scored yet again to stop the run but NU unleashed a 7-0 run to open an 80-69 lead. Go scored eight straight points to keep La Salle in the game with Montalbo and Melecio adding a combined five points to equalize the score at 82-all at the two minute mark of the quarter. The Rivero brothers scored two points each at the end of the third quarter to give the Green Archers a 91-88 advantage entering the final ten minutes of play.
Andrei Caracut opened the final canto with a floater but Bartlett quickly answered back with a shot of his own. R. Rivero continued to play outstanding basketball as he drained a three-pointer from the left elbow to push the DLSU lead to six, 96-90. Although Matt Salem, Melecio, Montalbo, and Tratter were riddled with foul trouble all throughout, the offense for both teams did not wane as the Green Archers and the Bulldogs scored basket after basket. Tratter, however, did foul out at the 7:11 mark of the fourth quarter but Ayo said that did not worry him.
“Actually, I was not worried because I know Prince [Rivero], Santi [Santillan], and Balti [Batazar], will deliver. Ganoon yung kumpiyansa ko sa mga big man ko,” said Ayo on Tratter’s early exit.
The final deadlock of the game happened at the 2:22 mark of the fourth quarter at 107-all after free throws from R. Rivero. The younger Rivero made another free throw and added a lay-up to push La Salle’s lead to three, 110-107, with just under two minutes left to play. Later on, R. Rivero acted as the playmaker as he dished off an assist to his older brother, Prince, who made a lay-up that gave the Green Archers a five-point lead when just 25 seconds remained. NU called a timeout right after and head coach Jamike Jarin produced a brilliant alley-oop play for Issa Gaye to keep NU close but that proved to be their last field goal as Melecio and Santillian made three free throws to finish off the game.
Though they won, La Salle knows it will have to learn from their experiences today to improve their end-game execution. Melecio said, “Kailangan namin mag–learn sa end game namin, yung composure namin as a team. Tulad kanina, medyo palang, pero wala pa kami doon sa maturity namin.”
It was a game of immense runs in which both teams, at one point, led by double digits. Though NU outscored DLSU, 62-40, in the paint, excellent three-point shooting by the Green Archers is what led them to victory, with the team converting 15 shots from behind the arc. DLSU also had 22 assists which really pleased their head coach.
“We had 22 assists, siguro simula ng stay ko sa La Salle, pare, ito yung pinakamaraming assists. Compared sa semi-finals game against Adamson, that’s three, this is far more better than that,” explained Ayo.
Next up for the Green Archers is a game against the AdU Falcons on September 20, 4 pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU 115 – Rivero 21, Melecio 20, Go 19, Santillan 13, Tratter 11, Rivero 10, Caracut 9, Montalbo 8, Baltazar 4
NU 109 – Bartlett 23, Alejandro 18, Gaye 16, Salem 12, Aquino 10, Morido 5, Diputado 5, Yu 4, Lastimosa 4, Tibayan 4, Abatayo 4, Mosqueda 2, Rangel 2, Cauilan 0, Joson 0, Flores 0
Quarter scores: 31-29, 65-61, 91-88, 115-109