DE La Salle coach Juno Sauler fired the first salvo ahead of the Green Archers' grudge match against rival Ateneo in the UAAP men's basketball tournament on Sunday, pointing to the Blue Eagles' ability to "sell fouls."
Sauler made it clear he is aware of the number of fouls and free throws the Blue Eagles get every game as the Green Archers look to avenge an 86-97 loss to their top rivals in the 4 p.m. showdown at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
While Ateneo has mostly made its living from the perimeter this season in the post-Greg Slaughter era where it no longer has a solid threat inside the paint, Sauler pointed out the Blue Eagles still go to the free-throw line more than any other team in the collegiate league.
“Ateneo is going to be very tough. They shoot very well from the outside and from the three. After the first round, they are number one in perimeter points,” said Sauler in a text message to Spin.ph.
“It’s a little funny because they’re the team that gets fouled the most and shoots the most free throws.”
Ateneo is at the top of the standings with a 6-1 (win-loss) record at the end of the first round of the eliminations while the defending champion Green Archers are a full game behind at 5-2, having won five games in a row after the loss to the Blue Eagles.
But the numbers that worry Sauler more are apparently the fouls (172) and free throws ( 193) the Blue Eagles got in the first round - both league highs.
The La Salle coach's comments should re-ignite the debate over the number of fouls the Blue Eagles get during games, which University of the East coach Derrick Pumaren first raised after a loss that saw Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena shoot 25 free throws against the entire UE team's 30.
Sauler also fanned the controversy over "flopping" in the league when he said Ateneo players can "sell fouls" even when taking shots from the perimeter.
“Their players can sell fouls even when shooting jump shots,” added Sauler, without elaborating.
But more than the calls, a bigger worry for Sauler is the red-hot Ravena, who torched the Green Archers for 29 points in their first encounter of the season - a career-high at that time which he has since surpassed with a 38-point performance against UE last August 10.
La Salle was supposed to play Ateneo on August 23 yet, but the duel was pushed six days earlier after changes to the UAAP's schedule.
Sauler, though, said he doesn't mind.
“Change is the only constant thing in the world," the La Salle coach said. "Any changes during the UAAP just makes the league more exciting.”