DE La Salle leaned on its vaunted defense to make the critical run in the second half on the way ro a 75-66 win over National University on Sunday in the UAAP Season 79 seniors basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Green Archers trailed by nine points midway through the third quarter but turned to their ‘mayhem’ trapping defense to silence the Bulldogs' guns and extend their unbeaten run to start the season at four games.
Jeron Teng had 23 points, including eight in the critical fourth quarter. He hit back-to-back baskets that put La Salle ahead for good, 60-57.
Ben Mbala finished with 16 points and 15 rebounds for the Green Archers, who handed the Bulldogs their first loss after three games this season.
La Salle closed the third quarter with a 6-0 run to close the gap on NU, 54-52, before outscoring the Bulldogs, 21-9, in the final quarter to grab a 10-point lead, 73-63, with only 45.9 seconds left in the fourth.
“We were physically and mentally ready for the grind of the game,” said La Salle coach Aldin Ayo. “Ganun palagi eh, ubusan. Survival of the fittest."
Ayo added: "Kung sino ang pinakamaganda ang conditioning, kung sino ‘yung mas mentally and physically tough with the system that we have, ‘yun ang mananalo.”
It was also La Salle’s first win over NU this year as the Green Archers lost in a tune-up game and in the EDQ Cup offseason tournament.
Former La Salle cager Matt Salem contributed 15 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs, while J-Jay Alejandro finished with 14 points.
Matthew Aquino saw action for NU for the first time this season after the school was able to secure a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a UAAP ruling that declared him ineligible to play for the Bulldogs this season. He finished with three points.
DLSU (75)—Teng 23, Mbala 16, Tratter 6, R. Rivero 6, Montalbo 5, Torres 4, Melecio 4, Caracut 3, Go 3, Baltazar 3, P. Rivero 2, Sargent 0.
NU (66)—Salem 15, Alejandro 14, R. Diputado 10, Morido 7, Sinclair 6, Abatayo 4, Aquino 3, Aroga 2, Salim 2, C. Diputado 2, Mosqueda 1, Rangel 0, Yu 0, Gallego 0.
Quarterscores: 17-16, 37-37, 52-54, 75-66.