After a record-breaking loss in their last matchup, the NU Lady Bulldogs got their revenge and bit back with a commanding 93-61 victory over the DLSU Lady Archers in Game 1 of the UAAP Season 85 Women’s Basketball Finals.
In a losing effort, Fina Niantcho scored 18 points and grabbed 15 boards, despite having four personal fouls. Charmine Torres found her footing in the second half, and while it was too little too late, she still contributed 14 markers and five caroms. Bettina Binaohan showcased her all-around wares as she tallied 11 points, eight boards, and six assists.
Graduating star Mikka Cacho led the Lady Bulldogs as she recorded 16 points, along with four rebounds and three assists. Rhocel Bartolo and Angel Surada chipped in with 12 and 10 markers, respectively. It was a balanced attack for NU as seven other players added at least five points in this outstanding victory.
Imposing their presence
After a pulsating victory over the UST Growling Tigresses last Sunday, expectations were on the Lady Archers for their momentum to continue in the Finals. With the league’s top two defensive squads fighting for the coveted crown, the Lady Archers scored the first basket of the contest with a Binaohan corner three-pointer, but the Lady Bulldogs wrested control after the first couple of minutes.
The match began as a defensive battle, but a quick 7-0 run to end the first period for the Lady Bulldogs may have spelt the difference in that first half. DLSU head coach Cholo Villanueva decided to utilize his second unit players with only 40 seconds left in the opening period, as the lack of endurance and energy may have caught up with the Green and White. The first quarter ended with the team from Sampaloc building a nine-point cushion, 24-15.
The Lady Bulldogs began the next period with an even more impressive showing as an Annick Tiky short-stab conversion forced DLSU to an early timeout as the lead was extended to 12, 30-18. NU continued to impose their will as the lead increased to as big as 16 on multiple occasions. It was stellar defense propelling NU to build an immense lead, as they outscored the Lady Archers 23-4 on points off turnovers in the first half.
Tchuido and Binaohan were pacing La Salle in the first half, but the large difference of 21-5 in first half bench scoring, highlighted the deep bench of NU head coach Aris Dimaunahan. The Lady Bulldogs were headed to the dugout with a comfortable 14-point edge, 46-32.
Bulldogs bite back
After a difficult first half, things did not get much better for the Green and White. DLSU struggled to keep up with NU to open the third quarter, with the Taft-based squad going down by 20, 59-39, before the halfway mark of the period. The La Salle guards struggled to get into their groove, as their scoring woes led to DLSU ending the third frame down 22, 69-47, after a Rianne Villareal three-pointer.
It was a steady routing in the final quarter of play, with NU blitzing to an 8-0 run in the first two minutes of the frame before DLSU head coach Villanueva returned Binaohan and the foul-ridden Niantcho to action in hopes of sparking a comeback. It wasn’t until the six-minute mark of the period that Sario—who La Salle had depended on all-season long for offensive production—made her first three-pointer of the contest, highlighting the Green and White’s struggles in the outing. Despite their best efforts, the Lady Archers were unable to catch up to the Lady Bulldogs, dropping Game 1 of the series to the seven-time reigning champions by a large 32-point margin, 93-61.
DLSU head coach Villanueva acknowledges the experience and grit of their adversaries as he shares, “Them coming from the finals last [season] before the pandemic really showed.” He furthers that NU managed to outhustle them in what was a loss for his side, “We were making them shoot bad shots but they were scoring second-chance points.”
With a chance to even up the Finals series, the DLSU mentor shares that his team needs to display their hunger to win, ”We just need to want it more because they are a very gritty and strong team.” After this heartbreaking defeat, it’s back to the drawing board for Villanueva and the rest of the team, “They always capitalize on our mistakes…we need to learn from our mistakes [in] this game,” the DLSU legend stresses.
After this Game 1 loss, the DLSU Lady Archers will look to bounce back in their series versus the NU Lady Bulldogs when they meet again for Game 2 on Sunday, December 11, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
NU 93 – Cacho 16, Bartolo 12, Tiky 8, Clarin 8, Cayabyab 7, Pingol 6, Surada 6, Villareal 6, Betanio 5, Fabruada 4, Canuto 3, Solis 2
DLSU 61 – Niantcho 15, Torres 12, Binaohan 11, Sario 11, de la Paz 4, Jimenez 2, Ahmed 2, Arciga 1, Dalisay 0
Quarter Scores: 24-15, 46-32, 69-47, 93-61