Jose Rizal University finally drew significant offensive contribution from someone not named Nate Matute to wallop Letran, 101-83, on Monday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
After being held to season-low 37-point output by San Beda in their last outing on August 4, the Bombers came up with their first triple-digit production this year thanks to Byron Villarias' breakout game.
“Nandun lang yun aggressiveness and energy nila,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said. “They were willing to prove something to me that they can bounce back after that humiliating loss against San Beda.”
Meneses has Villarias to thank for that.
The sophomore swingman delivered the best game of his collegiate career, exploding for 29 points, on top of three boards, three steals and two assists as the Bombers notched their seventh win in nine games.
“Hindi niyo lang napapansin pero siya yung pinakaconsistent na player ko. We’re 7-2 mainly because of him,” Meneses said of Villarias, who is one of the league’s most underrated players.
“Ito rin siguro yung hinihintay ko na pagkakataon na sabay sila pumutok ni Nate,” added Meneses, whose chief gunner Matute still came away with his usual offensive numbers of 25 points.
After gaining a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter, the Bombers extended the cushion to 10 at halftime, with Villarias firing 13 of his total in the second period.
The Bombers doubled their advantage entering the fourth and maintained a lead of no less than 18 points until the final buzzer.
Kevin Alas reached the 30-point plateau for the second time this season with 31 markers for the Knights, who dropped to 4-4.
JRU 101 – Villarias 29, Matute 25, Lopez 12, Carampil 12, Almario 9, Mabulac 4, Camasura 4, Dela Paz 3, Mendoza 2, Salaveria 1, Porter 0
LETRAN 83 – Alas Ke. 31, Racal 15, Cortes 15, Cruz 14, Alas Kr. 4, Gabawan 2, Lituania 2, Luib 0, Belorio 0, Almario 0
Quarterscores: 19-17, 48-38, 74-54, 101-83