La Salle claims twice-to-beat with blowout of NU

The De La Salle Green Archers secured a twice-to-beat advantage for the UAAP Season 80 Final Four round with an imposing 101-76 victory over the NU Bulldogs on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The win improved the record of the defending champions to 11-2, giving them enough of separation from the six teams below them in the league standings for the twice-to-beat edge. That’s a significant feat for De La Salle, which in the Final Four era has never been eliminated in the semis when having one of the top two seeds.

Reigning UAAP MVP Ben Mbala was impressive once again for DLSU, finishing with 30 points on 8-of-13 shooting and 8 rebounds to add to his MVP repeat campaign. Ricci Rivero, who’s blossomed into a star this season, had another noteworthy outing with 16 points and 6 boards.

Leonard Santillan – 9 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks – and Kib Montalbo – 8 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds – also pitched in well for the winning effort.

La Salle, which wasted no time building a big lead in the first half to take control of the game, forced NU to 23 turnovers and surprisingly had only 9 of its own. The Green Archers also limited the Bulldogs to below 40% shooting, with NU leading scorer J-Jay Alejandro hitting only 6-of-18 from the floor.

It was arguably the most impressive win of the second round for DLSU, which has yet to lose since dropping its first-round ender against the Ateneo Blue Eagles last month. The Green Archers’ next game will be against the Blue Eagles, which will be their last matchup before the Final Four begins.

Ateneo, which is 12-0, goes up next against UP. If the Blue Eagles win that, their matchup against the Green Archers will allow them to sweep the elimination round with a win.