NATIONAL University tries to inch closer to the top against a University of Santo Tomas squad seeking to snap out of a slump with the return of chief gunner Jeric Teng in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament today.
The Bulldogs hope to sustain their hot run against the Tigers at 4 p.m. at Smart Araneta Coliseum in the same matchup where Teng sustained his injury.
Teng averaged a team-best 19 points before sitting out for more than a month due to a shoulder injury he sustained following a shove from NU forward Jeoff Javillonar in the two teams’ first-round meeting.
“We have to treat [the game] with a sense of urgency because of the tight standings,” said coach Eric Altamirano, whose Bulldogs stand just a win behind solo leader Far Eastern University at 6-3. “One loss will really matter.”
La Salle also vies to stay in the top four in the 2 p.m. game versus a University of the Philippines side hoping to have overcome its coaching change drama early this week.
The Maroons try to turn their fortunes around with new coach Rey Madrid, who took over Sunday following the surprise resignation of Ricky Dandan after eight games this season.
“I’ll just try to motivate the players,” said Madrid, who mentored the Maroons in the early ’90s after teaming up with PBA greats Benjie Paras and Ronnie Magsanoc in UP’s last title run in 1986.
The Tigers try to get all the motivation they can get with Teng’s return after losing three of their last four games, which pushed them down to a share of fifth at 4-4.
“We really need to improve,” said UST stalwart Aljon Mariano after the Tigers blew a double-digit advantage in the final quarter of their painful loss to University of the East, 67-68, last week. “But maybe when Jeric returns, the team will be better.”
The Bulldogs narrowly triumphed over the Tigers, 71-67, in the first round where the injured Teng sat out the entire second half.
Altamirano remains wary of the Tigers even though his Bulldogs have strung up three straight victories behind the big games of two-time MVP Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe.
The Bulldogs are also coming off a blowout win over Adamson, 80-48, where Mbe delivered 21 points, 10 rebounds and four steals and Parks posted 16 points, six boards and five assists.