La Salle survives tough stand from FEU
Heavyweight La Salle got an early reality check as it needed to survive a tough Far Eastern University, 83-78, to open its campaign in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament Wednesday night at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Green Archers, who are the overwhelming favorites to win the title this year, were expected to come away with a comfortable win over the Tamaraws.
La Salle’s victory, however, was anything but easeful despite taking a 16-point lead in the third quarter.
“A win is a win, but that was a hard-fought game,” said DLSU head coach Aldin Ayo. “Pero siguro kalawang. Last game namin three weeks ago, yung last tuneup namin hindi natapos. Rust factor and decision making especially on our defense and in the endgame.”
“For us, ine-expect namin na ganito. I’ve been telling the guys that it’s not going to be easy. you will need to adjust. We have to work on that.”
Jeron Teng powered the Green Archers with a game-high 28 points, including six of his team’s last eight points for an 81-77 lead with 57.1 seconds left.
Ben Mbala had 13 points, 23 rebounds and four blocks in his much-awaited UAAP debut after serving a one-year suspension and two-year residency.
“Sila pupuntahan ko palagi,” Ayo said on his one-two punch of Teng and Mbala. “Magkaiba sila eh. Si Ben sa ilalim, si JT sa labas. Ito mga sasandalan ko. Ito mga haligi.”
“But we also have role players. Sargent only had two points but he played well on defense and also, Montalbo, Melecio and Tratter.”
Kib Montalbo, rookie Aljun Melecio and Abu Tratter combined for 23 points off the bench.
Playing its first UAAP game minus the core of its championship team last year, FEU covered up that hole with a collective effort as seven of its players wound up with at least seven points led by Ron Dennison’s 13.
Allen Trinidad added 12 points for the Tamaraws, including a basket that tied the game at 74 with 3:53 left and at that point, all the momentum was on FEU’s side until Raymar Jose cramped up that opened up offensive opportunities for the Archers.
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