With Sunday’s loss to the ADMU Blue Eagles still fresh in the minds of most of the Lasallian community, the DLSU Green Archers will look to quickly turn the page as they are set to begin the second round of eliminations later today as they face the FEU Tamaraws at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
La Salle, which holds a 5-2 win-loss record, will look to continue to put the pressure on Ateneo for the league’s number one spot, while the Tamaraws, who are currently 4-3, are hoping to hold off NU and UP for the final spot in the Final Four.
First round match-up
In their game last September 10, the Green Archers were able to prevail, 95-90, even without Ben Mbala, who was still with his national team at the time. Aljun Melecio led the way for DLSU, scoring 29 points to lead all scorers, while Abu Tratter had 11 points and 10 rebounds in support. On the other hand, Ron Dennison was FEU’s leading points man, scoring 21 in the game.
DLSU was the dominant team for most of the match-up, even leading by 19 points entering the fourth quarter. It was only a strong rally by the Tamaraws towards the end, in which they outscored La Salle, 36-22, in the last 10 minutes, that made the Green Archers have to earn the win. Earn it they did, though, as the Green-and-White fought and dove for every loose ball before they eventually iced the game with clutch free throws by its guards.
Keys to winning
Since these two teams last met in each of their first games of the season, a lot has changed in both the personnel usage and the style of play of each team. Rookies on both sides, such as Santi Santillan and Josh Gonzales for DLSU and Jasper Parker for FEU, have all earned the trust of their respective coaches, which has resulted in more minutes for each of them.
Also for La Salle, Melecio will most likely be returning in this game after missing three games due to an illness. While he may be rusty, his presence will provide the defending champions with a much needed scoring punch and outside threat. Of note, however, is that the reigning Rookie of the Year has struggled since Mbala has returned to the line-up, scoring in single digits both times they have played together.
If the Green Archers want to win this game, they will need to take care of the ball as FEU is a team that thrives on the fast break. Guys like Parker and Hubert Cani have made it a habit of finding shooters such as Kenneth Tuffin and Dennison, spotting up in the corners, while the rest of the defense is still scrambling back. DLSU cannot turn the ball over the way they did against the Blue Eagles, as that would just spell disaster against a team like the Tamaraws. Also, look for Ricci Rivero to build off his excellent performance against Ateneo, in which he led all scorers with 19 points.
On the other side, the Tamaraws will be without top bench producer, Arvin Tolentino, who is suspended for the game after getting into an altercation with AdU’s Dawn Ochea in their previous game. This is a big loss for FEU as the forward has become a consistent scorer off the bench for coach Olsen Racela. Now, guys like Richard Escoto and Jojo Trinidad will be looked upon for more scoring to replace Tolentino’s production.
For the Tamaraws to win, they will have to rely on their signature physical brand of basketball to force multiple DLSU mistakes. While it has been awhile since their scuffle in Davao, it is still surely still in the mind of each team’s players and Mbala’s return to the fold will only force even more contact between the players. For FEU, Prince Orizu will do his best to limit the Cameroonian, but the MVP frontrunner has been able to score at will since his return from FIBA Afrobasket. The key for the Morayta-based squad is limiting Mbala’s supporting cast as DLSU has been lacking a consistent offensive threat behind its center.
The Green Archers will be going for their sixth win of the season, as they face the Tamaraws at 4 pm at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.