De La Salle University weathered Far Eastern University’s (FEU) late surge and held on for a shaky 95-90 win on Sunday in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Green Archers nearly blew a 23-point early in the game as the Tamaraws slowly clawed their way back in the game but lost steam in the end as La Salle preserved the victory despite missing the services of reigning Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala.
Aljun Melecio, last season’s Rookie of the Year, tallied a career-high 29 points to carry the scoring load for La Salle, which was poised of routing FEU after erecting a 37-14 lead early in the game.
But the Tamaraws came out charging at the start of the payoff period and sliced the lead to 85-90 on Wendell Comboy’s triple under two minutes remaining.
La Salle needed a defensive stop from Kib Montalbo, who stole the outlet pass of FEU Prince Orizu that could have cut the lead to three. Melecio sealed the win with two free throws in the ensuing play.
“It was a defensive breakdown. This just showed how young this team is,” said Green Archers head coach Aldin Ayo, who also drew 16 markers from Andrei Caracut.
Ron Dennison, one of the main characters in the much-publicized ‘basketbrawl’ with La Salle in Davao City, led the Morayta-based team with 21 points.
Mbala is currently playing for Cameroon in the FIBA Africa tournament. JOEL ORELLANA
DLSU 95 – Melecio 29, Caracut 16, Montalbo 12, Tratter 11, Santillan 9, Rivero P 7, Baltazar 4, Go 3, Rivero R 2, Paraiso 2, Capacio 0.
FEU 90 – Dennison 21, Comboy 13, Orizu 12, Tuffin 10, Cani 7, Tolentino 7, Parker 7, Inigo 5, Escoto 5, Trinidad 3, Nunag 0, Ebona 0, Bienes 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 29-11, 47-32, 73-54, 95-90