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Ateneo tests NU; La Salle vs UST

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — La Salle vs UST
4 p.m. — NU vs Ateneo

Roster depth and sufficient firepower have been the name of the game for streaking Ateneo so far in the Blue Eagles’ impressive start in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.

The same, however, could not be viewed of rebuilding National University, with the Bulldogs mainly relying on skipper J-Jay Alejandro especially on the offensive end.

The Bulldogs could not afford to play such way today if they intend to stop a two-game bleeding in their 4 p.m. encounter with a Blue Eagles side determined to inch closer towards a sweep of the first round at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The 6-foot-2 Alejandro is certainly making the most of his fifth and final year underscored by his solid averages of 17.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game, putting himself in the early conservation among top MVP candidates.

As impressive as Alejandro is playing, NU coach Jamike Jarin admitted “it’s a concern” since the other Bulldogs, including Senegalese center Issa Gaye and gunner Dave Yun, have been struggling to play consistently.

“Like what I said this team is not talented enough to win games so it has to be a collective team effort. We need to step up offensively and defensively,” he added.

In contrast, the Blue Eagles are getting the job done behind a fluid offensive attack, with eight players accounting for at least five points per game, and a suffocating defensive blanket that allows just 73.4 points per game.

“I guess their unselfishness also allows each one to step up when the need arises,” admitted Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.

“There’s no jealousy. And that’s actually a big thing for a team, so we’re also lucky with the attitude of our players. They have no problems with sharing the ball and sharing the limelight.”

Meanwhile, defending champion La Salle, stung the last time out, seeks to bounce back at the expense of struggling University of Santo Tomas in the 2 p.m. opener.

The Green Archers are aching to redeem themselves from a 98-87 loss inflicted by University of the Philippines last week and that should give the Growling Tigers, losers of five in a row, more reasons to be cautious.a

“We have to do more in terms of executing our game plan,” stressed La Salle coach Aldin Ayo, aware that the loaded Green Archers have that tendency of relying on isolation plays – instead of running their offensive sets – even in crucial stretches.

And the cohesion that Ayo wants to see from the Green Archers is clearly what the Blue Eagles have been flashing underlined by their 17 assists output and an efficient 44.3 percent shooting clip per game.