So just how good are the 7-0 DLSU Green Archers? Aside from leading the league in several categories*: scoring (87.0) , offensive (95.7) and defensive (78.8) ratings, points differential (16.9), offensive (22.8) and total rebounds (51.0), and steals (7.8), its that winning culture and mentality set by the coaching staff and executed by the players that has given La Salle its best UAAP start since 2002.
Aside from that 21-3 run than turned a 20-26 second quarter deficit into a 41-29 advantage, it was delightful to see how compose and calm the Green Archers were given the magnitude of the game. Amidst the brighter spotlight, not having head coach Aldin Ayo and team captain Jeron Teng, and increased attention of being a La Salle-Ateneo matchup, DLSU did not look lost nor hurriedly tried to enforce their will early into the Blue Eagles.
Like a professional boxer or mixed martial arts fighter, La Salle was feeling its way in the first quarter. Studying the Blue Eagle’s fight plan and taking the best shots that Ateneo had in its arsenal. Two Ateneo triples for that 26-20 lead seem like early haymakers that probably would have scored a knockdown for the Katipunan-based squad but then DLSU uncorked a barrage of knockout punches, all intended with mayhem and destruction, in the next 4:52.
From comfortable halftime and third period leads of 53-36 and 80-56, half of the gallery wearing green wanted to savor every second of the beating while the other blue half of the venue could only remain silent; as if already waiving the proverbial white flag, and saying ‘no more, no more.’ A late spurt 9-0 spurt by the Blue Eagles did not do much as threaten the outcome of the game, but merely gave some sort of dignity to the final score, 97-81.
Big Ben Mbala not only shouldered Jeron’s absence on offense with 28 points on 11/13 shooting, but also anchored the La Salle defense with 13 rebounds, five steals, and one block. Fellow starters Andrei Caracut, Abu Tratter, and Thomas Torres combined for 32 points and 18 rebounds, while the bench provided consistency and support for the DLSU starting five with 44 points.
Not only did the Green Archers took care of the ball with a season-low 17 turnovers, they also clipped the Blue Eagles’ wings by forcing them to cough-up the ball 30 times, leading to 21 fast break points.
Cheering for each other
Previous La Salle teams have always been strong on paper and perhaps had more experience than the current batch of Green Archers. Standing from Section 122 of the Mall of Asia Arena yesterday, what is surprising this Season 79, aside from Mbala’s highlight slams, are the camaraderie and chemistry of the team.
With the outcome virtually decided, assistant coach Louie Gonzalez called on rookie Mark Dyke and everyone on the bench instantly got excited for the little-used greenhorn to get some playing time. Each player on the bench gave positive inspiration to the player being substituted out of the game.
In case you were wondering, Ayo, according to coach Louie, was spending his forced “leave” watching the game at the team’s dormitory.
Green and Black don’t mix
With all the commotion, gimmicks, and antics (of the Blue Babble Battalion), what is really important is the game. Despite the wide attention given to any La Salle-Ateneo match-up, politics should never, ever ride the coattails of sporting events.
The Green Archers would not know their next assignment until the first round of competitions come to an end. By then, team officials are expecting Teng, who underwent a minor procedure on his left foot and was at the venue on crutches, to return to the La Salle line-up.
Animo La Salle!
* Stats courtesy of stats.humblebola.com