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UAAP: Winston, Baltazar lead Green Archers to opening day victory versus Red Warriors

The DLSU Green Archers opened UAAP Season 84 with a narrow 71-66 win against the UE Red Warriors at the Mall of Asia Arena earlier tonight, March 26. 

In his UAAP debut game, Deschon Winston led the way for the Green Archers with 22 points, six rebounds, and three steals, while floor general and pesky guard Evan Nelle contributed 11 points, three rebounds, and four steals for DLSU. Team captain and forward Justine Baltazar chipped in with a double-double, posting 12 markers and 11 boards.

In a losing effort, Nico Paranda and Harvey Pagsanjan steered a valiant effort with 13 points apiece for the UE Red Warriors. Leon Lorenzana also added 11 points and five rebounds—the only other Red Warrior in double figures.

At halftime, DLSU blew a 47-31 lead. Commenting on the Green-and-White’s season opener, head coach Derrick Pumaren shared, “It’s really not a nice win, [we need] to correct a lot of things. I’ll take the W, but we just have to work on our game.” 

The Pumaren press is back

In the early juncture of the first period, the Green Archers were struggling defensively as the Red Warriors capitalized on the lackluster perimeter defense by converting uncontested jumpshots. UE stayed within striking distance, with Lorenzana and Paranada each hitting three-pointers early on. But Winston proved to be a game-changing factor for DLSU from the jump, successfully scoring and controlling the pace throughout the opening period.  

However, the team from Taft racked up their defense a notch in the second quarter as Pumaren relied on his primary unit composed of Nelle, Winston, Baltazar, Bright Nwankwo, and CJ Austria. 

The Pumaren press raised the confidence of guards like Nelle as his pull-up jumpers propelled DLSU’s lead to 30-20 midway through the second quarter, creating floor spacing for the bigs. La Salle managed to maintain a 16-point halftime cushion after the Red Warriors committed 12 turnovers in the first half. The Green Archers focused on asserting their towering size, leading to numerous open layups—highlighted by two consecutive layups by Winston to cap off the first half.

“The defense is not much of a problem but [it is the] offensive execution. [We made] a lot of mistakes offensively and that’s what we need to work on,” Pumaren stressed. For the Green-and-White to emerge as a legitimate Final Four contender, they must be able to flourish consistently on both ends of the floor.

Inconsistent performance

Following their remarkable finish at the end of the first half, the Green Archers slowed down drastically by allowing the Red Warriors to outscore them by five in the third quarter. Amid their struggle, Winston managed to drain a pull-up jumper, a layup, plus a foul to build a rhythm for the Green-and-White. UE took advantage of DLSU’s lax perimeter defense and shot three-pointers, accompanied by their disciplined half-court defense.

UE sliced the lead down to five at the 7:00 mark, forcing DLSU to call an emergency timeout. With Joaqui Manuel, Kurt Lojera, and Benjamin and Michael Philipps struggling as the game progressed, the Pumaren press was consistently broken by UE which ended up creating efficient scoring opportunities for the opposing team’s shifty guards. As Nelle and Donn Lim struggled with foul trouble in the second half, the Red Warriors capitalized by sending their players to the stripe.

Keeping the intensity 

After spending more than two years away from tough collegiate competition, DLSU’s inconsistency showed during the second half, with the team still needing to improve on their defensive efforts in case opponents manage to break the press. There was a slew of instances wherein the Red Warriors would capitalize on a defensive lapse, which led to a total of 10 three-pointers for UE. Moreover, the intensity and relentlessness of the bench crew must still be more reliable on both ends, especially against the likes of the UP Fighting Maroons and the Ateneo Blue Eagles.

After a cardiac first match, the Green Archers still need to improve on their defensive efforts once opponents find chinks in the famous “Pumaren press”. Moreover, the towering foursome of Baltazar, Nwankwo, and the Philipps brothers must not surrender 17 offensive rebounds to an undersized UE squad.

Fil-foreigners usually have a difficult time adjusting in their inaugural game in the Philippines, but Winston seemed to have immediately adapted to the country’s unique playing style, “The objective [of playing in the US] is the same, but I feel like there’s more passion with the players here. I’ve noticed that with my own teammates, it’s more competitive [during training] and they always bring fire,” the speedy guard remarked.

After the win against the Red Warriors, the Green Archers look forward to facing the NU Bulldogs on Tuesday, March 29, 4 pm at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores: 

DLSU 71 – Winston 22, Baltazar 12, Nelle 11, Nwankwo 10, Lojera 6, B. Philipps 4, Austria 4, M. Philipps 2, Manuel 0, Lim 0 

UE 66 – N. Paranada 13, Pagsanjan 13, Lorenzana 11, Antiporda 6, Sawat 5, Villanueva 4, Talabut 4, Escamis 3, K. Paranada 2, Catacutan 2, J. Cruz 2, J. Cruz 1, Atabayo 0, Beltran 0. 

Quarter Scores: 22-15, 47-31, 60-49, 71-66

By Diego Vergel de Dios

By Mikaela Vallesteros

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