Coming off a loss to UP last Saturday, Ben Mbala and the De La Salle University Green Archers stormed right out off the gate, pouncing on the hapless University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 115-86, Saturday afternoon at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
“We were very eager because we were disappointed after that game against UP. We needed to get back on track,” said Mbala.
With the win, La Salle lift their slate to 4-1, while dropping UST to their worst-ever start in the Final Four era with a 0-6 record. The 29-point romping is the worst loss any team has received this season in the Men’s Basketball tournament.
The result is much better for UST compared to the two games they had played against La Salle last year. Last season, the Green Archers defeated the Growling Tigers by an average margin of 39.5 points, including a 43-point beat down last October 23.
For the first time in his UAAP career, Mbala missed out on a double-double, finishing with 29 points on 11-for-22 shooting to go along with nine rebounds and three blocks.
Behind Mbala and Santi Santillan, the Green Archers raced to an early 17-5 lead to start off the tilt.
“We played unselfish basketball, I think we had 26 assists. Sobrang aggressive namin and we pushed the pace which is what we want,” said assistant coach Miggy Solitaria.
Santillan, a transferee from the University of Visayas, added 13 points, while Andrei Caracut chipped in 14 markers.
In addition, it was a bad match-up for the most turnover-prone team in the league, as La Salle — the league’s leader in steals — were relentless on defense. The Green Archers forced the Growling Tigers to commit 16 turnovers in the first half, leading to 20 La Salle points.
“I’m glad we played better defense. We were able to make them commit many turnovers that led to easy points,” added the 22-year-old Cameroonian student-athlete as La Salle forced 35 turnovers that led to 37 points.
Midway through the second frame, La Salle were able to extend their lead to 50-26 after a Ben Mbala and-one play. UST tried to push a run in the third frame, cutting the lead to 13. 69-56, after Jeepy Faundo cleaned up a Jordan Sta. Ana miss. But La Salle were able to restore order, going on a 7-0 blast.
UST could only get the lead to as low as 17 points, 90-73, in the final frame. La Salle’s lead, on the other hand, ballooned to as high as 31 points, 115-84, after a signature layup by Ricci Rivero with 36 ticks left.
La Salle were without their second leading scorer Aljun Melecio, as he is still confined in the hospital after suffering a case of urinary tract infection. Moreover, Ricci Rivero only checked in the game with 4:55 remaining.
Oliver de Guzman tallied his career-high in the loss with 18 markers. UST’s Cameroonian student-athlete Steve Akomo tallied 15 points on 7-for-10 shooting with 13 rebounds.
The Green Archers play their penultimate game of the round on Wednesday, October 4, when they take on the University of the East Red Warriors at 4:00pm. The Growling Tigers, on the other hand, look to end their round on a high note on Saturday, October 7, against the same team. The former will be played at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum, while the latter takes place at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
DLSU (115) – Mbala 29, Caracut 14, Santillan 13, Rivero P 11, Montalbo 8, Tratter 8, Capacio 7, Go 7, Rivero R 7, Tero 5, Baltazar 4, Paraiso 2, Gonzales 0
UST (86) – De Guzman 18, Akomo 15, Sta. Ana 14, Lee 8, Faundo 8, Macasaet 8, Romero 4 , Kwawukumey 4, Caunan 2, Huang 2, Escalambre 2, Arana 1, Lorenzana 0, Garcia 0, Soriano 0
Quarterscores: 30-21, 60-42, 85-63, 115-86