After an impressive season debut last Sunday, La Salle is looking for another statement game tomorrow against the NU Bulldogs. With Ben Mbala still unlikely to play, the Green Archers are out to prove that their win over FEU was not luck and they can still manage to come up on top even without their main man in the middle.
They may have blown a big lead towards the end but the Archers showed in their first game just how good they can be when they play as a team despite being undermanned. Aljun Melecio took on the scoring load with 29 points while Abu Tratter held his own down low with a double-double output. Kib Montalbo, who was initially ruled out in this game after coming off an illness, registered 12 points and made a key steal in the crucial seconds of the game to seal the victory. Other players such as Andrei Caracut, Prince Rivero and Santi Santillan also provided key contributions on both ends for La Salle.
NU is likewise aiming to go 2-0 in the tournament after an 86-60 opening day win over UE. Now under the tutelage of former San Beda coach Jamike Jarin, the Bulldogs have transitioned from their trademark deliberate, half-court game to an up-tempo pace. They are also now very aggressive on the defensive end with their full-court trap.
In essence, both teams practically have the same style of play. La Salle’s advantage though would be their experience. NU has shown in their first game that they are still adjusting to the new system after committing 28 turnovers. Also, the Green Archers have the deeper bench and better overall defense.
It would take another solid team effort to notch win number 2. We are hoping that Ricci Rivero would be able to bounce back from his lackluster offensive performance last game as the Bulldogs are expected to put a tight guard on Melecio.
More than keeping in step with early league leader Ateneo, this game presents an opportunity for La Salle to finally put to bed any doubt that they can win without Mbala.