DLSU takes fight out of FEU even without Mbala
AND THE WINNER.
Just about everybody expected De La Salle University and Far Eastern University to go toe-to-toe and trade punches to open the 80th Season of the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament.
From start to finish, however, it was the Green Archers who had haymaker after haymaker.
Aljun Melecio waxed hot all game long, Kib Montalbo showed no signs of illness, and the defending champions sent a big-time statement to the challenger Tamaraws with a 95-90 decision on Sunday at the MOA Arena.
The Taft-based team actually found itself behind early on, 3-6, until Melecio ignited the massive 34-10 blast that boosted them ahead, 37-16, in the second quarter.
FEU found some sort of energy in the third period and trimmed their deficit to seven, 44-51, only to see Montalbo’s two triples bookend the 10-0 counter that re-established a 61-44 edge in favor of his team.
The Tamaraws again charged into only 85-90 with two minutes remaining, but Melecio and Andrei Caracut finished the job once and for all by making good on five of seven free throws.
The second-year stud wound up with a UAAP Seniors career-high 29 points on top of six rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
Caracut contributed 16 points of his own while Montalbo chipped in 12 markers, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in a surprise appearance. The latter was ruled questionable for the season-opener due to an illness.
With its backcourt showing the way, DLSU registered the first win in its title defense.
They did all this even without MVP Ben Mbala who is fulfilling national team duties for Cameroon.
In his stead, Ayo lauded the effort of Abu Tratter who posted an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Still without their Cameroonian center, the Green Archers now turn their attention to National University. Then, Ayo rekindles his rivalry with Jamike Jarin.
For FEU, Ron Dennison topped the scoring column with 21 points.
Taking too long to get going, however, they fall to 0-1 to start the season.
DLSU 95 – Melecio 29, Caracut 16, Montalbo 12, Tratter 11, Santillan 9, Rivero P 7, Baltazar 4, Go 3, Rivero R 2, Paraiso 2, Capacio 0
FEU 90 – Dennison 21, Comboy 13, Orizu 12, Tuffin 10, Cani 7, Tolentino 7, Parker 7, Inigo 5, Escoto 5, Trinidad 3, Nunag 0, Ebona 0, Bienes 0
QUARTER SCORES: 29-11, 47-32, 73-54, 95-90
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.