Never give up.
For a team that has struggled all season long due to their offensive deficiencies, the NU Bulldogs found a superhero in JJay Alejandro to bail them out against the DLSU Green Archers and to pump some oxygen into their dying Final Four aspirations.
In so many ways, the unheralded guard was the key to everything in this game. It was a perfect time for him to step up and help his team to fight for their dear lives. The former national youth player registered a career-high 25 points, 17 of which came from the final period, including an impressive and unbelievable 14 in a row.
To be fair to other Bulldogs, it was not only Alejandro who made it happen. Pao Javelona tallied a season-high 14 points in an efficient 63% shooting from the field. Also, five players have chipped in at least six markers for the defending champs.
What went wrong for La Salle?
Actually, I am confused whether it was NU’s defense that gave DLSU headaches or their own stagnant offense. The Taft-based squad could not convert wide open shots given to them as the NU elected to apply a zone defense all game long. Fortunately for them, rookie Josh Andrei Caracut rose to the occasion, nailing four triples as the three-point area was quite open due to the defensive scheme by Bulldogs.
In terms of contesting baskets, NU did a stellar job as La Salle only made 23 of the 68 shots. This is due to the relentless energy that the Bulldogs showed on defense. Undersized forward Prince Rivero was held down to five points. His hustle and great timing in capturing loose balls were negated by Alfred Aroga‘s presence inside the paint.
Even Jeron Teng, who’s known for his vicious attacks to the basket and dishing out the ball to his teammates, was intimidated by the NU defense. Though he wound up with 25 markers on 22 shots, the Bulldogs’ aggressiveness gave him hard time in orchestrating plays for the team, limiting him to only two dimes.
The beauty of NU’s offense (WHAT??!!)
For the majority of Season 78, we’ve witnessed how awful to the naked eye the offensive scheme of NU is. They heavily relied on the playmaking of Gelo Alolino and Aroga’s ability to dominate inside. Surprisingly, the Bulldogs did a heck of a job in establishing other guys into their plays. What’s gone unnoticed is that all the players that Coach E fielded in this game scored for him, with the bench outscoring their La Salle counterparts, 42-31.
NU also posted a magnificent 104.92 offensive rating. Given that they had problems this season in terms of points production, this game proved the team’s resiliency. Even when the Green Archers double or triple teamed their main man Aroga,who only shot four times, others were able to come up and provide the scoring punch that NU needed.
With this victory, arguably their biggest one of the season so far, the Bulldogs must continue their winning ways in their next two final assignments. They will be going up against the UP Fighting Maroons and last year finals nemesis in FEU Tamaraws. For the Green Archers, they still have three more chances to improve and make a clear separation in the race to the Final Four.