DEFENSE will again be the name of the game as defending champion San Beda and Jose Rizal University square off on Saturday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball competition at The Arena in San Juan.
The Lions are hoping to win the 6 p.m. encounter and formalize their entry to the Final Four, although the Bombers themselves are also looking to close in on a semifinal berth during the match featuring two of the league’s top defensive teams.
San Beda is on top of the field with a 10-2 (win-loss) card, while JRU is running third at 8-4 together with Perpetual Help.
The Altas see action two hours earlier opposite another semifinal aspirant in Emilio Aguinaldo College.
The Lions gave the Bombers a taste of their own medicine in a 62-37 rout in the first round.
But San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc is not about to be swayed by the easy outcome of their first meeting with JRU.
“We will have to be ready to match up with their defensive intensity as we are hoping to sustain our drive towards the Final Four,” said Magsanoc, whose Lions are tops in the league in points allowed, limiting the opposition to just 59.8 points per game.
Ironically, as the Bombers pride themselves to be among the league’s premiere defensive teams, their numbers are quite deceiving as they rank third to last in the same department, allowing opponents 74.1 points per game.
Proving that defense has been their bread and butter this season, no Lion is averaging in double digits at the moment. Sixth man Baser Amer is San Beda’s current leading scorer at 9.9 points per game.
Meanwhile, the Bombers, second in the league in scoring with a 74.3 point average, boast of one bonafide scorer in Nate Matute, who averages nearly 19 points per game.
Coaching will also come into play as Magsanoc has high regard for his JRU bench counterpart.
“The Heavy Bombers are a very well-coached squad,” Magsanoc said of Bombers’ coach Vergel Meneses, a one-time PBA Most Valuable Player, and like him, one of the pro league’s 25 Greatest Players.
In the first game, the Altas try to ride on the hot hands of senior swingman Jet Vidal, who exploded for a career-high 32 points in their 88-72 victory over the Bombers last Monday.
Vidal shot 9-of-16 from the field.
The Generals, whose longest winning streak in the league was snapped after a 55-80 loss to Mapua last week, go for their fifth win in 13 games as they lean on Cameroonian import Cedric Happi Noube.