In their penultimate game of the second round, the DLSU Green Archers hope to continue their winning momentum as they face off against the NU Bulldogs tomorrow, 4 pm, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Though two games behind, the Green Archers still remain hopeful of catching the league leading ADMU Blue Eagles at the top of the standings. A win against the Bulldogs tomorrow will give the Lasallians an 11-2 record, while a loss will dent their hopes of capturing the number one seed in the Final Four of Season 80.
In their first round match-up last September 16, both teams breached the 100-point mark as DLSU and NU combined for a total of 224 points. Ricci Rivero and Aljun Melecio led the Green Archers to a 115-109 victory by scoring 21 and 20 points, respectively. Jollo Go chipped in 19 points as he provided outside shooting in less than 14 minutes of play. Ben Mbala did not feature in the game as he was still playing for the Cameroon National Team in the 2017 FIBA AfroBasket.
Jordan Bartlett paced the Bulldogs with 23 points while shooting a high clip of 69 percent from the field. He also added four rebounds, four assists, and two steals in the losing effort. Matt Salem finished the game with 12 points, eight rebounds, and three steals but the former Green Archer was riddled with foul trouble in 28 minutes of play.
In a thrilling game that featured 14 lead changes and 11 deadlocks, the Green Archers finally pulled away from the Bulldogs in the last two minutes and 22 seconds of the game as the defending champions limited their opponents to only two points while scoring eight points during that span. The Rivero brothers played brilliantly in the crucial stages of the game as the younger Rivero provided his older brother with the assist which gave La Salle a five-point cushion with 25 seconds left in the game.
Keys to winning
The Green Archers struggled to score in the paint as they relied on points from the perimeter due to the absence of Mbala. The reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player will certainly change that in their second round match-up as he has been dominating the paint ever since he came back from his stint in AfroBasket. Mbala only played 19 minutes in their last game against the Growling Tigers and will most certainly have enough energy to compete against NU’s import, Issa Gaye.
Rivero will have to continue his stellar play if the Green Archers want to keep their winning streak alive. The younger Rivero has provided head coach Aldin Ayo a player that can play on both ends of the floor this season. Not only did he lead the Green Archers in scoring in their first round match-up with 21 points, R. Rivero also added a steal and a block while grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out two assists in 29 minutes of play.
Carrying the the offensive load for the Bulldogs will be Jayjay Alejandro as he will try to keep his team’s Final Four hopes alive. The fifth-year guard scored 18 points in the Bulldogs’ previous game but was unable to help his team avoid their seventh loss of the campaign. Salem missed their last game due to an illness and his status for the game against La Salle is still unknown.
Breaking each other’s full-court press will be vital for both teams as both like to trap opponents even before breaching the half court line. Kib Montalbo, Andrei Caracut, and Melecio will be the main ball handlers for the Green Archers while NU head coach Jamike Jarin will have to rely on former Blue Eaglet Enzo Joson, Rev Diputado, and Bartlett to unlock the Mayhem defense of La Salle.