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La Salle too much for UST

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – UP vs FEU
4 p.m. – Adamson vs UE

Even with an open lane for a lay-up, La Salle guard Andrei Caracut suddenly stopped on a dime and relayed the leather to a streaking teammate Ben Mbala for an emphatic throwdown.

UST's Steve Akomo (right) and La Salle's Abu Tratter appear to kick as they land from a rebound during the UAAP Season 80 match at Smart Araneta Coliseum, September 30, 2017 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

UST’s Steve Akomo (right) and La Salle’s Abu Tratter appear to kick as they land from a rebound during the UAAP Season 80 match at Smart Araneta Coliseum, September 30, 2017 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Perhaps, that’s the perfect way to describe how the Green Archers vented their ire on the bleeding Growling Tigers of University of Santo Tomas yesterday.

Flashing its fearsome form of old right from the get go, defending champion La Salle proved too much for UST 115-86 to get its UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament title campaign back on track at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The 6-foot-7 Mbala missed a double-double performance for the first time after 19 matches but still made his presence felt with 29 points, nine rebounds and three blocks while eight other local Green Archers added at least seven points in a high-octane offensive attack that left the Tigers eating the dust.

The wire-to-wire victory, the highest winning margin so far this season, could provide La Salle a perfect tonic after falling prey to University of the Philippines 98-87 last week.

In addition, the Green Archers jacked up their record to 4-1 and seized the solo second spot over the Fighting Maroons (3-1) as they hardly missed the services of top playmaker Aljun Melecio who’s still confined in a hospital due to possible dengue symptoms.

“We played unselfish basketball,” admitted La Salle assistant Miggy Solitaria, clearly impressed with how the Green Archers played fluid offensively underscored by 26 assists, five of them coming from Caracut.

The Green Archers’ “Mayhem” defense was also in full display as they forced the Tigers to commit 35 turnovers which they translated to 35 points, mostly off uncontested buckets including that Mbala highlight early in the second canto.

“I’m glad we played better defense. We were able to make them commit many turnovers that led to easy points,” stressed Mbala who also added two assists and as many steals in 27 minutes of play.

Backup Oliver de Guzman tallied a career-best of 18 points while Cameroon import Steve Akomo collected 15 points and 13 rebounds but the Tigers struggled to climb themselves out of an early deep hole, leading to their sixth straight loss – their worst start in the Final Four era.

La Salle 115 – Mbala 29, Caracut 14, Santillan 13, Rivero P. 11, Montalbo 8, Tratter 8, Capacio 7, Go 7, Rivero R. 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.

Quarters: 30-21, 60-42, 85-63, 115-86.