ANOTHER slow start, another smashing finish for La Salle.
The Green Archers overpowered University of Santo Tomas, 99-56, to clinch the twice-to-beat semifinals incentive in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
La Salle improved to 11-0, as it also remains on track for an outright entry in the best-of-three championship series in the tournament which it is tipped to rule.
Later, Ateneo completed a day of routs with a 65-50 dismantling of National University and strengthen its Final Four bid with a third-best 6-4 card.
As in the previous games, the Archers were again sluggish, trailing 5-10, but when the patented “mayhem” pressure defense went into full throttle in the second period, the Growling Tigers were simply tamed.
With Ben Mbala bullying everyone on his path, La Salle outscored UST, 26-8, to build a 45-23 advantage and led by as much as 46 points to score a repeat of its massive 100-62 win in the first round.
Three wins away from making it to the championship round, the Archers are taking it step by step.
“We wanted to continue to be humble and keep to be grateful,” said La Salle assistant mentor Paolo Sauler, who again spoke in behalf of Aldin Ayo.
Mbala tallied his 11th double-double as in many games with 21 points and 15 rebounds on top of five blocks while Jeron Teng added 16 points for the Archers.
La Salle, which has all of its 14 players fielded in score two points or more, became the first team to win by 40-plus points since NU blasted University of the East, 91-51, on Aug. 13, 2011.
Rookie Raffy Verano had a breakout game with 20 points, including 11 in the second period when the Blue Eagles erected a 34-16 spread and never looked back.
It was the Bulldogs fifth straight loss and the seventh overall in 11 outings, putting their Final Four aspirations in peril.
“We knew that we are up against a NU team that might be a little more desperate. We know NU’s system, especially defensively. We wanted to come out with the defensive mindset of our own. I guess we were able to do that,” said Ateneo coach Sandy Arespacochaga, who held their opponents to a season-low.
The loss, the eighth in 11 matches, put the Tigers on the brink of elimination in coach Boy Sablan’s first season.
Currently tied with idle University of the Philippines in sixth spot at 3-8, UST is trailing fourth-running Adamson (5-5) by two-and-a-half games in the race for the last semis berth.
DLSU (99) -- Mbala 21, Teng 16, Baltazar 10, Rivero R. 9, Perkins 8, Torres 5, Montalbo 5, Tratter 4, Sargent 4, Dyke 4, Paraiso 4, Rivero P. 4, Melecio 3, Caracut 2.
UST (56) -- Vigil 18, Subido 9, Sheriff 6, Huang 6, Lee 5, Arana 5, Lao 3, Faundo 2, De Guzman 2, Afoakwah 0, Macasaet 0.
Quarterscores: 19-15, 45-23, 68-37, 99-56.
ADMU (65) -- Verano 20, Go 9, Black 7, Asistio 6, Babilonia 6, Tolentino 6, Ravena 4, Mi. Nieto 3, Mendoza 2, Wong 2, Escaler 0, Ikeh 0, Ildefonso 0, Ma. Nieto 0, Porter 0, White 0.
NU (50) -- Alejandro 13, Aroga 8, Salem 7, M. Diputado 6, Morido 5, R. Diputado 3, Gallego 3, Rangel 3, Pate 2, Abatayo 0, Mosqueda 0, Salim 0, Yu 0.
Quarterscores: 11-8, 34-16, 52-34, 65-50.