MANILA, Philippines – In their final game of the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball elimination round, La Salle looked a whole lot like the team that took the league by storm last year en route to winning the championship.
Knowing how important this game was, the DLSU Green Archers made sure to stand up to the challenge, as they came out with the victory over the NU Bulldogs, 68-56, on Saturday evening, September 13, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was a balanced, all-around performance out of La Salle, whose veterans took charge. Almond Vosotros finished with 15 points and 3 rebounds, while big men Arnold Van Opstal and Norbert Torres dominated the paint all-game long to total 27 points and 10 rebounds.
Jeron Teng finished with just 9 markers, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists, but didn’t play have to play the entire fourth quarter, where DLSU blew past their opponents.
La Salle outscored NU in the paint, 28-20.
“That created open shots for Almond and the other guys,” DLSU head coach Juno Sauler said after the game.
On how balanced his team’s offense was today, Sauler simply stated: “I think we’re more scary if we involve the others. And I think Jeron was conscious about that.”
Jason Perkins finished with 8 points, while Kib Montalbo and Julian Sargent combined for 9.
With their win, DLSU finishes the elimination round at 10-4 and will face the FEU Tamaraws in a playoff to determine who takes the no. 2 and last twice-to-beat advantage seed in the Final Four round. After which, both squads will commence their semis series, making it virtually a best-of-three battle.
“I’m loving it,”Van Opstal said after the game, while Sauler said DLSU has to “match their intensity.”
It will be the second straight year DLSU and FEU will need a playoff to determine who takes the second spot in the league standings. In Season 76, the Green Archers won the twice-to-beat edge and quickly dispatched the Terrence Romeo-led Tamaraws the following game.
“It’s the same style of play,” Sauler said about last year and this year’s Tams. “Just different players but they play the same way. Almost all their guys who coach Nash plays contributes.”
Their Final Four encounter in 2014 will mark the 11th time DLSU and FEU face each other in a UAAP series since the implementation of the Final Four format 20 years ago.
NU, in turn, falls to 9-5 and will have to face the UE Red Warriors in a playoff for the no. 4 seed assuming the latter beats the UST Growling Tigers on Tuesday, September 16.
Gelo Alolino led NU with 18 points and 2 rebounds, while Jeth Rosario had 14 markers and 5 boards. Alfred Aroga was limited to 8 markers and 8 rebounds.
After going scoreless the past six quarters, Perkins quickly found the bottom of the basket to open the third quarter as he converted four straight points.
Later on, his sideline jumper upped his total output to six, and gave La Salle a seven-point lead. On the succeeding possession, a turnover by NU led to an breakaway layup for rookie Julian Sargent, who gave the Green Archers their largest lead of the night at 45-36.
But thanks to Alolino, the Bulldogs remained within striking distance. Six quick points by the starting point guard allowed DLSU to take only a 49-43 lead into the final period.
Torres started the fourth quarter by scoring six straight points, kick-starting a DLSU rally in which the team’s lead balooned to as much as 18, 66-48. During the run, DLSU received multiple baskets near the rim from Van Opstal and the rest of the squad, while limiting the Bulldogs on the other end of the floor.
The Bulldogs opened scorching hot from the field, racking up 13 points halfway through the first quarter to erect a six-point lead over the Green Archers.
After NU made the count 15-9, La Salle unfurled an 11-2 run to end the first quarter thanks to Vosotros and Van Opstal, who had 8 and 6 points, respectively, after 10 minutes of play.
Going into the second quarter, DLSU held on to a 20-17 lead. However, it didn’t take long for the stingy defense of National U to reappear, as they held the Green Archers to just two points over the next few minutes.
After a baseline floater by Alolino beat the shotclock and gave the Bulldogs a 28-22 advantage, DLSU managed to get to the free throw line on three straight plays to narrow the gap.
On an offensive play where Van Opstal held possession of the ball in the post, NU collapsed on the big guy and left a wide-open Teng, who hit his first 3-ball of the game to put DLSU back ahead, 31-29. On the subsequent possession, Rosario hit a mid-rang J to tie the contest heading into the half. – Rappler.com
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