There must be something about the court, old-fashioned shot clocks, or the basketball rings inside the Filoil Flying V Center in San Juan that allowed the DLSU Green Archers to hit the triple-digit mark, the second highest score since 2003, in a 113-88 win over the NU Bulldogs. It turned out that, with the way La Salle lit up the scoreboard, the relatively smaller confines of the Filoil Arena did not hurt nor bother the players at all.
The expected slow, defensive-oriented game between the league leaders and the Bulldogs turned out to be a shootout right from the opening tip. After training early, 4-14, after a three-point conversion from Rev Diputado, La Salle slowly chipped away the deficit courtesy of seven points from team captain Jeron Teng, and ample support from the reserves.
The first of rookie Aljun Melecio’s four rainbow connections gave the Green Archers momentum, offensive punch, and the eventual lead, 24-23, at the end of the first period. Just like in the team’s previous game against UP, Melecio and fellow greenhorn Ricci Rivero were hot from deep; both players hit one three-pointer each to open the second frame, and continued to sizzle, hitting back-to-back treys to give DLSU a 44-31 lead at the 5:48 mark.
You have got to give it to head coach Alden Ayo for giving confidence, and more importantly, playing time to players who are not only finding their stroke and the bottom of the net on offense, but also to his soldiers who get the job done on defense. With Diputado’s 19 first half points keeping NU within striking distance, 49-56 at intermission, Ayo fielded veteran wing Julian Sargent to harass the Bulldogs’ starting point guard.
Despite the limited 7:40 of playing time, Sargent, together with La Salle’s other guards, was able to limit Diputado to four second half points. Not to be overshadowed, the DLSU frontline also did a masterful job containing NU import Alfred Aroga to two points, two rebounds, and more importantly five fouls; rendering him ineffective for the second time this season.
Quiet for the first 20 minutes of the game, DLSU big man Ben Mbala threw his weight around NU’s front court after intermission; scoring on a variety of layups, put backs, and even an alley-oop at the 1:26 mark of the third period, to score 23 of his total 29 points in the second half. The Bulldogs were actually close at the start of the final period, 75-85, but a dominating 16-3 run dosed off any hopes of an NU upset.
With every Bulldog miss, La Salle seemed intent of pushing the ball back towards their basket as fast as they can; making 3-on-2 or 2-on-1 fast break opportunities look like practice drills. With every DLSU made basket, the Green and White gallery would scream with delight, while their NU counterparts could only wish that the game was over once the score hit the 100-point mark.
With less than four minutes to go and the Archers’ comfortably ahead, 101-80, it was a scary sight to see Ayo and the team still pushing hard, and playing like they needed every point for their quotient. Back-to-back conversions by Thomas Torres with less than 15 seconds to go gave DLSU the second highest UAAP scoring mark (after Ateneo’s 114 in 2006) in 13 years, and mercifully ended NU’s misery.
The Green Archers’ second round schedule and quest for perfection continues against the UST Growling Tigers on October 23, Sunday, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Animo La Salle!