La Salle overcomes NU for third straight win as UAAP enters crucial stretch
De La Salle kept its steady pace, turning back a tough stand from National University, 84-77, for its third straight win in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers remained at no. 3 with an 8-4 record, a full game behind second seed Adamson which earlier clinched a playoff berth.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are officially out of the Final Four race after falling to a 3-9 card.
After getting embroiled in a virtual back-and-forth for almost 37 minutes, the Green Archers finally created distance with less than three minutes left in the game.
Justine Baltazar’s jumper capped off a 9-1 run to give the Green Archers an 84-75 lead with 53 seconds remaining in the fourth.
La Salle head coach Louie Gonzalez knew the importance of their game against the Bulldogs that a loss would put them within striking distance of Far Eastern University and University of the Philippines.
“Coming into this game we knew how important this one would be,” said Gonzalez. “If we get this we’ll be at a better spot, if we fall at this one we’ll be in a difficult spot.”
A loss could’ve sent the Green Archers to a 7-5 record just a full game ahead of the Tamaraws and Fighting Maroons who are tied at fourth with 6-6 slates.
“Going to this game I wanted them to have fun but we’re facing a difficult task and I needed them to focus.”
Santi Santillan led the Green Archers with 18 points and five rebounds while AlJun Melecio and Andrei Caracut had 13 points apiece.
Baltazar, meanwhile, notched an 11-point, 11-rebound double-double for La Salle.
Dave Ildefonso led the Bulldogs with 20 points while John Lloyd Clemente added 19 points, 17 of which came in the first half.
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