DE LA Salle hardly missed a beat in the absence of its head coach and top star, totally outclassing rival Ateneo, 97-81, on Sunday to end the first round of the UAAP Season 79 seniors basketball tournament unbeaten.
Ben Mbala showed the way for the Green Archers with 28 points, 13 rebounds, five steals, and one block while filling the game with highlight dunks that adorned the team's seventh successive victory.
Save for the first quarter, the match between the archrivals was not even close.
Even without the injured Jeron Teng, the Green Archers surged ahead and finished the first half with a 53-36 lead following a 33-16 quarter. La Salle continued to show its might with a 9-0 run to start the third canto to take full control of the ballgame, 62-36.
Mbala gave La Salle fans from a crowd of over 16,000 fans at the Mall of Asia Arena more reason to cheer with plays such a two-handed dunk that overwhelmed two hapless Ateneo defenders.
But the one that got La Salle fans on its feet came late in the third. With the Green Archers on a fastbreak, Thomas Torres issued a lob pass which Mbala turned into an alley-oop dunk that had shades of LeBron James, according to social media.
It was the first time La Salle swept the first round of the men’s basketball tournament since 2002, although the Green Archers lost the finals to the Blue Eagles that year.
The Blue Eagles dropped to 4-3, snapping their two-game winning run.
Andrei Caracut added 14 points while Abu Tratter had 10 points and six boards for the Green Archers, who got five points or more from eight players fielded in by stand-in coach Louie Gonzales.
Ayo was suspended for the match while Teng sat out because of bone spurs in one foot.
Adrian Wong scored 15 points while Matt Nieto had 13 points for the Blue Eagles, who got 11 points and 11 rebounds from Thirdy Ravena.
DLSU (97) — Mbala 28, Caracut 14, Tratter 10, Torres 8, Montalbo 8, R. Rivero 8, Melecio 5, Perkins 5, Dyke 4, Baltazar 2, Go 2, Paraiso 2, P. Rivero 1, Sargent 0.
Ateneo (81) — Wong 15, Ma. Nieto 13, Asistio 11, Ravena 11, Mendoza 9, Ikeh 7, Porter 6, Go 5, Babilonia 2, Mi. Nieto 2, Tolentino 0, Verano 0.
Quarterscores: 20-20, 53-36, 80-58, 97-81.