Both teams were considered as preseason favorites to enter the Final Four. Fast forward to three-fourths into the season, they are now grinding it out for the last spot. While the DLSU Green Archers has an inside track being at 5-5 before their encounter, the NU Bulldogs played like they wanted it more as they bagged an 81-73 victory. With the win, NU is now just half a game behind the Green Archers for the fourth seed.
It was a tight battle for both with the Bulldogs leading 32-30 at the half. Then DLSU went on a 13-0 run for a 43-32 lead which the Bulldogs countered with a 12-0 run of their own to grab the lead back. By the final quarter, the Green Archers had a frontrow seat to the Jjay Alejandro show, who exploded for 17 of his 25 points in the final period. The Green Archers actually had a chance to tie the game after NU built a 10-point fourth quarter lead. But their inability to hit outside shots and make stops on the other end doomed them again as they suffered their second straight loss.
The DLSU Green Archers played a very subpar defense against NU despite the implications of this match. While NU isn’t known for being a very good offensive team, they sure looked like one in this game. They registered a very impressive 104.9 ORTG, while shooting 52.4% eFG. They also outhustled the Green Archers in the rebounding department, collecting 36.1% of their own misses, as opposed to DLSU’s 28.6%. The outside shots for DLSU once again haunted them, converting just six 3-point baskets (four coming in the second quarter) on 27 attempts. It puzzles a lot of people why they have to attempt from outside even though their percentages inside are actually pretty good.
Once again, Green Archers were led by Jeron Teng who had 25 points and 6 rebounds. Andrei Caracut had a bounce back game finishing with 18 points, while Jason Perkins added 10 points and 15 rebounds but missed two crucial inside buckets in the last minute of the game. On the other side, NU was led by the spectacular performance by JJay Alejandro who had 25 points on 8/13 from the field. Alfred Aroga had a relatively quiet offensive game with seven points, but his 3-point play was very crucial in the last minute where DLSU could have had a chance to tie the game had they stopped him.
There are doubts whether DLSU can retain its grip in the fourth spot after its lackluster play in their last two games. But we must remember that this team is just two years removed from being champions and there is no doubting that their talent level can match any team in the league. They still have an inside track at the last spot. And while their remaining games will be tough, they are all winnable games. It is only a matter of how bad the Green Archers really want it.