De La Salle University got back to its winning ways af-ter routing the hapless University of Santo Tomas (UST), 115-86, in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Coming off an 87-98 stunning loss to University of the Philippines (UP), the Green Archers were relentless from the start to score the most lopsided victory of the season and hand the Growling Tigers their sixth straight loss in as many games.
Reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) Ben Mbala led La Salle’s balanced attack with 29 points and nine rebounds though his 19 straight double-double games came to an end on Saturday.
“I’m not here for the stats. I’m here to get the win. It’s not about myself. It’s about my team,” said Mbala, who shot 11-of-22 from the field but was 0-of-4 from the three-point zone.
The Cameroonian slotman said the loss to UP served as a wake-up call for the defending champions.
“We are very disappointed. We have to find a way to get back on track,” said Mbala. “Last season, we were dominant and champions. We have to increase our play and be better than last year.”
Andrei Caracut chipped in 14 points, Leonard Santillan added 13 while Prince Rivero netted 11 markers for the Green Archers, who missed the services of starting guard Aljun Melecio due to sickness.
But even without Melecio, La Salle’s offense was fluid as the Taft-based team had 26 assists to improve their win-loss record to 4-1.
“We played unselfish basketball. It was a fast-paced game which we like,” said assistant coach Miggy Solitaria, who subbed for head coach Aldin Ayo for the post-game interview.
Ayo also utilized seldom-used players Ramil Tero, Gab Capacio and Christian Gonzales while Ricci Rivero was fielded only in the final five minutes of the game.
“We decided to maximize all the players. It’s still a long season and we want our starters to have rest,” added Solitaria.
The Green Archers jumped the gun on UST and erected a quick 15-2 lead that they never relinquished till the final buzzer. They led as high as 31 points, 115-84, on Ricci Rivero’s three-point play.
Wendell de Guzman hit a career-high 18 points for the Growling Tigers, who are off to their worst start since the Final Four stage.
Steve Akomo added 15 points and 13 rebounds while Jordan Sta. Ana contributed 14. Marvin Lee was held down to just eight markers on 3-of-8 shooting from the field.
LA SALLE (115) – Mbala 29, Caracut 14, Santillan 13, Rivero Prince 11, Montalbo 8, Tratter 8, Capacio 7, Go 7, Rivero Ricci 7, Tero 5, Baltazar 4, Paraiso 2, Gonzales 0
UST (86) – De Guzman 18, Akomo 15, Sta. Ana 14, Lee 8, Faundo 8, Macasaet 8, Romero 4 , Kwawukumey 4, Caunan 2, Huang 2, Escalambre 2, Arana 1, Lorenzana 0, Garcia 0, Soriano 0
Quarter Scores: 30-21, 60-42, 85-63, 115-86