Ben Mbala obviously holds the answer if De La Salle University wants to extend its reign with a victory in Game 2 in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball finals on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The reigning Most Valuable Player (MVP) played his worst game since wearing the green and white uniform and the Cameroonian center lauded the defense of Ateneo de Manila University for keeping him in check in Game 1 last Saturday.
The result: a 76-70 win for the Blue Eagles for a 1-0 series lead, one win away of dethroning their chief rivals.
“They (Ateneo) played good defense. They were able to hold me down to eight. Give it to them. But it’s just Game 1. We have to find a way to bounce back,” said Mbala, who finished with just eight points on three-of-seven shooting.
“I could have played better than this. We didn’t really run our plays and stick to our game plan,” he added.
The Ateneo coaching staff crafted a perfect defensive game plan for Mbala, who averaged 15.5 field goals and close to 12 free throws per game prior Game 1.
Mbala was given just six free throws in the series opener, converting two of them, and was hardly a factor in the game marred by physical plays.
If not for Aljun Melecio’s 24-point explosion, Ateneo could have routed La Salle in Game 1 as its main man was not on his elements.
The Blue Eagles simply wanted Game 1 more than the Green Archers, according to Mbala and he offered no excuses and vows to do better. He’s confident that La Salle can tie the series and send it to a winner-take-all Game 3 on Sunday also at the Big Dome.
“Obviously, if we lose the next game it’s over. We are not gonna go there to have a regular or mediocre game. We just have to go out there and win or else, everything we’ve been doing the season will just be gone to waste,” said Mbala.
“Expect me to be more aggressive offensively.”
The Green Archers should bring back their ‘mayhem’ brand of basketball in Game 2 with Mbala at the center of it. Otherwise, the Blue Eagles are ready to swoop the crown from them.