FROM the brink of elimination, the National University Bulldogs is back in the UAAP semifinal race.
They have J-Jay Alejandro to thank for, after mostly playing in the shadows of Gelo Alolino and import Alfred Aroga. But when they needed it most, Alejandro displayed his explosive scoring ability and powered NU to a much-needed victory.
Against a La Salle team that seemed seated firmly on a place in the semifinals, Alejandro fired a career-high 25 points on eight-of-13 shooting, while also adding three rebounds as NU won, 81-73.
He scored 17 in the fourth quarter, making five of six attempts. In the final frame, he scored 14 points in an NU run that gave the Bulldogs a 65-58 lead.
"Kailangan ko mag-step up," Alejandro said after his sensational performance. "Si Pao (Javelona), foul trouble, tapos na-sprain pa si Kyle (Neypes), so siguro, 'yung mindset ko lang is kung ano ang maitutulong sa team, gagawin ko lang."
Alejandro's full offensive arsenal was in display in the fourth quarter, as he torched La Salle with three three-pointers and kept his defenders off-balance with nifty drives to the basket.
"Nakakakita lang talaga ako ng openings. Siguro, right place at the right time lang talaga," Alejandro said.
Alejandro was picked Accel Quantum/3XVI-UAAP Press Corps Player of the Week awardee by writers covering the league over Far Eastern University’s Raymar Jose and Russel Escoto.
NU head coach Eric Altamirano was full of praise for Alejandro, who was only averaging 6.36 points per game before his timely explosion against the Green Archers.
"Every time he plays well for us, it's a lot easier for us," Altamirano said of Alejandro. "Sometimes, our defense is there, but we lack the offensive firepower. Every time he contributes like that, it really makes it easier for us."
"Alam naman ni Jay ang role niya sa team, and he's really doing it to the hilt. Siya 'yung spark namin ngayon, so we'll ride on his back right now," said Altamirano.