Archers take bark out of Bulldogs
La Salle fended off a tough challenge by National U in a fast-paced, high-scoring duel between two sides coached by old rivals with essentially similar philosophies, 115-109, to grab a share of the lead in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tourney at Smart Araneta Coliseum yesterday.
Ricci Rivero and Kib Montalbo came up big in the stretch as the Archers notched their second straight win without ace slotman Ben Mbala and joined idle Ateneo atop the team standings.
“It was a good game. We showed lots of tenacity; we were resilient and composed and the players were able to execute our plays in the end game,” said DLSU coach Aldin Ayo, who outsmarted his rival over at the NCAA, Jamike Jarin, in their first coaching matchup in the UAAP.
Rivero pumped in nine of his 21 points in the final canto, presiding over a 13-7 assault to end the exciting match. Montalbo had a crucial steal that led to a Prince Rivero bucket off an assist from young brother Ricci for a 112-107 cushion with 25 seconds left.
Ayo took excitement in dueling with Jarin again. They previously faced off in the NCAA finals in 2015 with Ayo’s underdog Letran getting the better of Jarin’s San Beda that time.
The familiarity led to a practically back-and-forth affair with DLSU enjoying a 10-point lead at one point and NU going up by 11 in the third period.
“We have the same system (which is) keep on running. It was like a lawn tennis match witnessed by spectators, where there’s so much running,” said Ayo.
“Coach Jamike is a very good coach. During the game, he had a lot of change-ups both on offense and defense and so many misdirection that I thought I’d run out of tricks. It’s like a chess match with him and you really have to execute your plays. Good thing, the players executed our plays in the end game,” added Ayo.
First-year player Jordan Bartlett led NU (1-1) with 23 markers, making 11 of them in the third where NU seized an 80-69 tear before DLSU countered with a 22-8 assault.
Both DLSU (47.73 percent) and NU (45.35 percent) shot in the high 40s, making for a combined score that was the highest since Aug. 2006, when the Bulldogs edged University of the Philippines, 107-104.
Adamson bounced back from last week’s 20-point blowout to Ateneo with an 88-81 victory over an erratic Santo Tomas.
Robbie Manalang regained his shooting touch after a six-point output in their 65-85 setback to the Eagles, firing 19 spiked by five triples, while Kurt Lojera added 16 as the Falcons improved to 1-1 and dealt the Tigers, who committed 41 errors, their second straight loss.
“We’re a different team compared to last game. We were kind of jittery, probably because we’re not used to being tagged as one of the favored teams. My players just have to get used to it but should expect no easy games,” said AdU mentor Franz Pumaren said.
He lauded the Falcons for choking the Tigers to 41 turnovers – the most since FEU’s 44 in 2003 – which they converted to 32 markers.
“That’s a testament to our playing aggressive defense. That’s the trademark of my team, forcing other teams to make turnovers and it helped us,” Pumaren said.