View from the Enemy: NU Bulldogs
Two teams in the middle of the pack try to end the first round with a winning record as the De La Salle Green Archers takes on the National University Bulldogs on the last game of the first round of Season 76. Both DLSU and NU hold identical 3-3 records. I, and just about every person who writes about the UAAP, have said this countless times, but I will say it again anyways — only a few games separate the second to seventh place teams; meaning every game is important, and every game is a must-win. La Salle is fresh from a 70-67 victory over Adamson. For the third straight game, the Green Archers saw its huge fourth quarter lead vanished. Fortunately for them, they made their free throws down the stretch to survive the furious rally of the Falcons. Meanwhile, NU lost its last game against Adamson, 68-66. The Bulldogs held a players-only meeting after that loss. Expect them to be in peak “championship contender” form in the last game before the FIBA-Asia break.
Last year, La Salle and NU split their games against each other. In the first round, we were treated to a shootout between Jeron Teng and Bobby Ray Parks. Both super scorers scored 35 points each. For the fans that appreciates old school NBA basketball, it was like watching Larry Bird and Dominique Wilkins in their classic playoff shootout during the 1980’s. La Salle defeated NU, 87-86, in a double-overtime thriller. Interestingly enough, that was also the last game of both teams in the first round last year, which gave La Salle a solid 4-3 record. In the second round, NU bounced back with a convincing 72-62 victory with Parks exploding for 32 big points. If their first round encounter had a “Bird vs Nique” feel, the second round encounter had a Jordanesque vibe as the two-time reigning MVP just flat out dominated the court. And just to add more flair, he even wore Air Jordan 14 “Last Shot” sneakers to complement a dominant performance.
Keys to the Game
1. Limit Bobby Ray Parks
“Stop Bobby Ray Parks” is different from “Limit Bobby Ray Parks”. Parks averaged 33.5 points in two games against DLSU last year. It’s a good thing Jeron exploded during the first round, as the two second generation superstars cancelled each other out. As long as we limit Parks to just around 18 points, I would be fine with that.
2. Stop Emmanuel Mbe
In the last few assignments of La Salle, they dealt with teams with legit superstar scoring threats, and strong imports. This game won’t be different. The ineligibility of Alfred Aroga lit a fire under the former mythical five member Emmanuel Mbe, who is averaging 18 ppg and 12.8 rpg in 31.5 mpg this season. If Aroga was playing, I think Mbe would have been limited to 16 mpg with a modest 8 ppg and 6 rpg. It is up to the big guys of La Salle to try to contain Mbe, or at least, match his productions. Arnold Van Opstal, Jason Perkins and Norbert Torres all had good games the last time around despite the presence of Ingrid Sewa, so a big game from the big guys of the Archers would be much appreciated in order to win this game.
3. Play consistent for 40 minutes
I am sounding like a broken record here. But it is true. La Salle lost back-to-back games to FEU and UE then almost lost to Adamson thanks to their endgame collapses. If La Salle builds a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter this Sunday, then NU gets to within striking distance during the last two-minutes, La Salle would be in big trouble as Parks can easily take over. We are the best 35-minute team in the league, time to prove to everyone that we can be consistent in being a good 40-minute team!
4. FREE THROWS!
Of course, my generic La Salle pre-game key to the game! We shot well in the free throw line last Wednesday, making 18/22 from the charity stripe. But there would be a lot more fans this Sunday. So there will be a lot more pressure. Time to prove to everyone that we can be a good, or at least decent, from the line when the arena is pretty much packed. If we can shoot around 70% from the line this Sunday, I would be fine with it. Jeron needs to prove to the haters that his 4/4 from the line including those two clutch free throws is no fluke.
Jeron Teng vs Jeoffrey Javillonar
Need I say more? Surely, this matchup will be under the microscope, considering the not-so-fortunate incident between Javillonar and Jeron’s elder brother. The best revenge is a victory and I expect Jeron to keep his cool and win this game, not only for the La Salle community, but for Jeric as well.
La Salle proved to everyone that they can hang on and beat a strong team by defeating Adamson last Wednesday. I expect another nail biter this Sunday. Will the Green Archers build a 10-point fourth quarter lead, then squander it as we get another down-the-wire finish? I don’t think La Salle can build a huge lead that we can squander this time around. I expect this game to be close from start to finish. If La Salle can limit Parks and Mbe, and if Jeron can keep his cool, they will win this one. DLSU will end the first round with a 4-3 record.