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(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – Ateneo vs UP
4 p.m. – La Salle vs UE
Unbeaten La Salle is expected to intensify its trademark pressure defense when it faces winless University of the East today in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Green Archers are likely to extend their perfect mark to six games and pull within a win shy of sweeping the first round when they play the 0-5 Red Warriors at 4 p.m., yet coach Aldin Ayo refused to agree to that belief.
“Kahit wala pang panalo ang UE, mas nakakatakot nga yun kasi pag nabuhay yun, bubulusok yun. So we will not treat them lightly,” Ayo said after La Salle’s 91-75 rout of Adamson University last Saturday.
Ayo and company are hoping for another strong showing, ahead of Sunday’s marquee clash against archrival Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Ateneo aims at restoring its hold of solo second when it plays University of the Philippines in the 2 p.m. opener. The Blue Eagles are in a four-way logjam at 3-2 with defending champion Far Eastern University, National University and Adamson.
La Salle won its first five games by an average margin of 17.2 points, thanks to its suffocating defense that has wreck havoc to the rest of the field, and an offense that relies not only on Ben Mbala and Jeron Teng.
Veterans Kib Montalbo and Abu Tratter have provided the intangibles on both ends while rookies Ricci Rivero, Aljun Melecio and Wilson Baltazar have provided moments of promise.
And perhaps to the amazement of La Salle fans and basketball observers, Ayo even declared that the Green Archers are far from their true potential.
“I can say nasa 70 o 75 percent pa lang kami,” Ayo said. “Actually very low kami dun sa first game namin against FEU, nasa 50 percent lang kami nun dahil sa rust factor.
“But ang magandang bagay dito is every game were improving, buti na lang nairaraos namin dahil halos hirap kami every game.”