NU’s Aroga commends La Salle, but says ‘they’re beatable’

Naveen Ganglani
NU’s Aroga commends La Salle, but says ‘they’re beatable’

Josh Albelda/RAPPLER

The NU big man also emphatically insists that he had no thoughts about an individual matchup against Ben Mbala

MANILA, Philippines – The NU Bulldogs came closest to handing consensus favorite La Salle its first loss in UAAP Season 79 on Sunday, September 19, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. Up by 9, 52-43, at one point in the third period, National U looked poised to secure the victory until the Green Archers rallied at the end of the third quarter and exploded for 23 points in the final frame to steal the win.

But despite losing their lead and a great chance to go on top of the league standings, NU remains confident.

“We’re not negative,” Bulldogs big man Alfred Aroga said after the contest. “Like I said the previous time, the only opponent of NU is NU. We were right there, but [because] of a lot of turnovers, we lost the game, but it’s okay.”

NU finished the match with 29 turnovers which led to 33 DLSU points. The Bulldogs also let the Green Archers shoot 48% from the field, but did win the rebounding battle, 37-35, and had more assists, 17-15.

By the numbers, this was also actually Aroga’s worst game so far in the season. The third-year big man finished with only two points on 1-of-5 shooting, committed 7 turnovers, and had a +/- of -17 when he was on the floor.

Aroga was complimentary of La Salle’s height and talent for his struggles, but also indicated that he feels his Bulldogs can matchup with the Green Archers on even footing.

“They’re a pretty good team and they’re really big, but they’re beatable,” said the former UAAP Finals MVP. “We had a lot of turnovers, we got out of the system during the crucial part of the game. But still, that’s alright. We just move on. We’re thinking about the next game.”

Not about individual matchups

Aside from being labelled as a battle between undefeated teams, there was also noise about how the game between NU and DLSU was going to feature arguably the two best foreign student-athletes in the UAAP today in Ben Mbala and Aroga. 

The NU center, however, seemed agitated when asked about the individual matchup with his counterpart from La Salle, and insisted basketball is a team game.

“There’s no matchup… people are always talking about matchup. It’s La Salle versus NU. I don’t like talking about matchup-matchup,” he said.

Mbala, who’s in his first year with the Green Archers, finished the game with 16 points on 50% shooting, 15 rebounds, and two steals.

“You, the journalists, you want to talk about the matchup. I don’t really care about that. Every time I go in the game, my mindset is NU versus this team. I don’t like talking about [individual] match-ups,” said Aroga.

He continued, “It’s never one versus 5. It’s this team versus this team. I’m not an individual player. I’m a team player, so I’m focused on what I have to do to make my team win. I’m not there to think about match-ups.” –

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