HEAVYWEIGHT Jose Rizal University and San Beda test each other’s mettle when they square off on Saturday in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers are currently perched atop the standings with San Sebastian on 6-1 records, although the defending champions Lions are not far behind in second spot with a 5-1 card.
A win by the Bombers in their 6 p.m. affair would give them the solo lead, while a victory for the two-time defending titlists would tie them with the Stags at the top.
The Lions hardly skipped a beat even after an almost two-week layoff as they drubbed the Mapua Cardinals last Thursday, 62-52.
The Mendiola-based squad will try to extend a three-game winning streak as they hoped for another clutch performance from Jake Pascual, who pumped in nine of his 11 points in the payoff period against the Cardinals.
But San Beda coach Ronnie Magsanoc expects a tough outing against JRU that will boil down to “execution and composure” between two of the league’s top defensive teams.
Magsanoc cited the Bombers’ patented zone-press defense that has worked wonders for the squad.
“I think they have a very good system in place,” said the rookie mentor, whose Lions are actually the league’s best defensive team, limiting the opposition to just 65.3 points per game.
The Bombers, who are fifth in the league in points allowed with 73, are coming off a come-from-behind 77-72 win over College of St. Benilde last Monday.
Marksman Nate Matute has been the Bombers’ main source of offense, although the squad has been relying more on its defense anchored by Decoy Lopez, Michael Mabulac, and Byron Villarias, in churning out those victories..
In the first game two hours earlier, bottom-half teams Emilio Aguinaldo and St. Benilde collide as they try to turn their fortunes around.
The Blazers, supposedly Final Four contenders this season, have been up and down in the first round and won just three of their first eight games.
But the Generals are even worse. After winning their first game of the season, they lost their next seven matches, the last at the hands of the Stags, 94-93.