By Jerome Lagunzad
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – Adamson vs UP
4 p.m. – UE vs La Salle
As talented as defending champion La Salle is, reigning MVP Ben Mbala is convinced the Green Archers still have plenty of rooms for improvement in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.
The 6-foot-7 Mbala and the rest of his teammates have a chance to polish those rough edges even more when La Salle takes on the still winless University of the East today at (Smart Araneta Coliseum)
Tip off is at 4 p.m., with the Green Archers out to follow up a 115-86 victory over the UST Tigers – the most lopsided victory in the tourney so far.
Its much-awaited encounter with archrival Ateneo, still undefeated after six games, on Sunday also gives La Salle another concrete reason to build enough momentum that it could.
And the Green Archers could get such against the Red Warriors who have dropped their first five matches, the last a 79-60 blowout at the hands of resurgent Adamson Soaring Falcons last Sunday.
However, Mbala would like to focus more on how the Green Archers can gather their acts further after being stunned by the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons barely two weeks ago.
“They say we’re the team-to-beat being the (defending) champions. But we’re not,” said the Cameroonian big man, refusing to be lulled into a false sense of complacency.
“We are a team like everyone else. Everyone has a chance to win the championship. Teams are preparing well against us so we have to find a way to get back. If ever, we have to increase what we did last year.”
The Soaring Falcons, winners of their last two matches, and the Fighting Maroons, humbled by host Far Eastern University 78-59 last Sunday, square off in the 2 p.m. opener, with the winner earning a share of the third spot with the idle Tamaraws.
While Adamson is pleased to see Cameroon center Papi Sarr regain his usual strength, UP is set to miss the services of defense-minded big man Noah Webb due to a sprained left ankle he endured in the course of their loss to FEU.
Much of the spotlight, however, is expected to fall on the main match, with Mbala himself out to reassert his dominance anew after seeing his impressive run of double-doubles came to an end against UST
But the Green Archers should still do their fair share if they intend to get the job done, admitted the African.
“I’m not here to look for double-doubles. I’m just here to help my team win. It’s not about my stats, it’s all about winning I’ll give that away, I don’t mind. It’s not about myself, it’s about our team,” he stressed.
“It’s still the first round and we are still making adjustments. I feel like we are going to get better, sooner or later. There’s always room for improvement and we got to keep on working,” Mbala concluded.
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