After clinching a Final Four berth with their 21-point victory over the UE Red Warriors last Wednesday, the DLSU Green Archers will try to continue their momentum against the winless UST Growling Tigers tomorrow, 2 pm, at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
A win for the Green-and-White would solidify their place at the second spot of the standings with a 10-2 record, while a loss would give the Growling Tigers their first win of Season 80.
First round match-up
In their first meeting this season, the Green Archers defeated the Growing Tigers in dominating fashion with a 115-86 victory. Fresh off their stunning loss against the UP Fighting Maroons, the Lasallians bounced back impressively as they led by as much as 14 points in the first quarter.
Ben Mbala failed to notch a double-double but filled-in the stat sheet as he scored 29 points to go along with nine rebounds, two assists, two steals, and three blocks. The reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player had a rim-rattling dunk in the second quarter that helped the defending champions build a 60-42 lead at halftime.
The Lasallians continued to dominate the game in the second half as they fended off every game-changing run by the Growling Tigers. It was a sublime performance by the defending champions as they excelled on both ends of the floor, breaching the 100-point mark while holding UST to below 90 points.
Keys to victory
Mbala has been tasked to guard to opponent’s best perimeter scorer the past few games, as seen with UP’s Paul Desiderio and UE’s Alvin Pasaol, but in this game against UST, he will most likely match up against fellow import Steve Akomo. In their first round meeting, Akomo was held to only 15 points, with Mbala clearly winning the match-up.
Giving Mbala additional help in the paint would be rookie Santi Santillan and Justine Baltazar. The former has been a steady presence in the paint throughout the season as he is able to complement Mbala’s game perfectly with his athleticism and outside shooting. Although the latter has been receiving inconsistent minutes so far this season, Baltazar was able to play well in their last game against UE, scoring 13 points to help secure the victory.
The bench play for La Salle will also be crucial as the other three rookies, Gabe Capacio, Ramil Tero, and Josh Gonzales received significant minutes in their first round match-up and contributed well enough to earn the praise of assistant coach Miggy Solitaria.
Aside from Akomo, Jordan Sta. Ana and Marvin Lee’s offensive production should also be limited as both players have shown reliable scoring prowess. The former can easily rack up the points with his outside shooting while Lee can break a full-court press alone and get to the basket with his incredible speed.