Slumping Matt Salem repays NU coach's trust with breakout game vs UP Maroons
Matt Salem had his best game of Season 80 against UP with 21 points after averaging just six markers before the match against the Maroons. Marlo Cueto

NATIONAL University coach Jamike Jarin cited the importance of Matt Salem to the Bulldogs' campaign this season following his breakout game on Sunday against University of the Philippines.

Breaking out of an early-season slump, Salem had 21 points and 10 rebounds and shot 7-of-15 from the field and 5-of-10 from threes as NU defeated UP, 77-70.

Jarin said Salem's explosion is a welcome development for the team as he averaged only 6.0 points and 6.2 rebounds for the Bulldogs in the games prior to the UP match.

"Matt Salem has been struggling scoring-wise. Defensively, he is average. But I told him that if we want to make a push this season, he needs to overachieve. Our team is talented enough to close out games. It's always a collective effort from everybody," said Jarin.

"Salem played great defense today except from the start where he started gambling. We just said percentage defense lang. Stay in front, don't gamble, and stay with your man. He scored a lot of points today. I'm happy for this man who has a promising career in the future," added the NU coach.

Salem thanked Jarin and his teammates for the trust despite his struggles at the start of the season.

"They never gave up on me," said the 6-foot-3 Salem. "All the teams are tough but I had to do something different. They are always behind me 24/7 throughout the whole season. It was up to myself to step up. You have to do something for them."

Salem is keeping a positive attitude.

"It's a learning experience. I'll take all those struggles in the first round and put it to good use. I might have been putting too much pressure on myself," said Salem.

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