La Salle gave NU a taste on how difficult it was to defend a title. The Green Archers survived a late comeback by the defending champs as Jeron Teng and Jason Perkins provided clutch plays to stun the Bulldogs, 67-63 in the opening weekend of the UAAP Season 78 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was fun to watch the game even at home since yours truly was given the pleasure to cover this game. The champion team two seasons ago wanted to start their respective campaign on a high note and it seems that the Green Archers were hungrier after holding National U to just 6 points in the opening salvo.
I followed blue chip recruit Joshua Andrei Caracut since his San Beda days and tweeted this before the tip-off:
Expecting Caracut to deliver right away.
— Ramil Luteria (@PapaRamBall) September 6, 2015
He showed flashes of brilliance in the early goings of the game. He scored 8 points in the 1st half and isolated Alfred Aroga (yeah the supposed to be leader of NU on both ends of the floor but struggled in his season debut after committing two early fouls) outside rainbow country and connected on the shot that gave the Archers largest lead of the game, 41-27.
Championship experience of NU started to come at the right time especially in the final quarter. Thanks to their trademark, suffocating defense and big shots from Jjay Alejandro and graduating Gelo Alolino, they trimmed the lead to just 1, 60-59.
But King Archer Teng had other things in mid. He pulled off a wild drive in the dying seconds of the game to hold off the Bulldogs comeback and joined opening day winners University of Sto. Tomas and University of the Philippines on the top of the standings.
Key Stats of the Game
La Salle’s defense was on point right away from the start of the game. NU shot a dismal 29.41 % from the field which allowed La Salle to seize the lead most of the game. Even Aroga, who committed five personal fouls, rarely touched the ball as he only shot 3/6 FG (50%). The starting five of Green Archers outscored Bulldogs quintet, 50-33 led by Teng’s 18.
For NU, they can look at the positive side of this game in terms of team effort. The defending champs rotated 13 players and posted a 30-17 advantage in bench scoring.
Next Game, National University will face the UE Red Warriors, who also lost their first assignment against UP. On the other hand, the Green Archers will battle the Fighting Maroons for solo lead of the tournament.
Featured Image Credit: Mix Gatpandan, Rivals.PH