By Gio Gloria
DLSU Green Archers def. NU Bulldogs, 85-61
Justine Baltazar (Career-high 25 points, Career-high 25 rebounds, three assists, and two blocks)
After an otherwise quiet first-round finale against the UST Growling Tigers, Justine Baltazar took advantage of a listless NU frontcourt by posting career highs in both points and rebounds. The Season 81 Mythical Five member had a double-double with more than five minutes left in the second quarter and ended up having 15 points and 14 rebounds by halftime.
His activity on the boards allowed the Green Archers to push the pace (an area they usually thrive in) and created second-chance opportunities (that more often than not resulted in points. His three assists also showed his awareness to kick out the ball to the other La Salle shooters, while his two blocks proved he was a two-way thorn to the Bulldogs’ side.
Andrei Caracut (Season-High 16 points, six rebounds, and five assists)
There isn’t a better game breaker for DLSU than Andrei Caracut. The former Batang Gilas standout has added another layer to his playmaking ability by stepping up and leading DLSU in assists this season. But where he makes his mark is in his timely 3-pointers, which helped douse any chances of a NU comeback. The Green Archers’ team captain also scored La Salle’s first two baskets and gave them a lead the would never relinquish.
Dave Ildefonso (11 points, two rebounds, and one steal)
To say that Dave Ildefonso worked for his shot in this game was an understatement. The Batang Gilas standout scored the game’s first basket on a 3-pointer, but he struggled mightily for the rest of the first half as he was the Bulldogs’ marked man.
For all the defense DLSU threw at Dave, his polished scoring ability helped him to increase his activity in the second half. Whether it was against the Green Archers’ backcourt and even the likes of Baltazar, the younger son of Danny Ildefonso always had a counter move when needed. Unfortunately, La Salle had much more firepower and built an insurmountable lead early in the first half.
Shaun Ildefonso (10 points, two rebounds, and one steal)
Shaun Ildefonso still managed to have his way inside despite giving up inches to DLSU’s frontcourt. His upper body strength allowed him to hold his own against Baltazar, Jamie Malonzo, and Brandon Bates, all of whom had to fight for boards against the former Ateneo Blue Eaglet. NU’s team captain was also instrumental in Malonzo fouling out, but it did little to help them fight back against the Green Archers.
- Both teams were feeling the effects of the nearly weeklong layoff. La Salle could not get anything going offensively, while NU’s sloppy passes resulted in five turnovers at the 7:50 mark of the first quarter.
- After Dave Ildefonso’s 3-pointer, DLSU went on a 26-6 run enroute to a 26-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
- The Green Archers’ scoring was well-balanced, as Baltazar, Caracut, and Malonzo each had seven points by the end of the first quarter. Kurt Lojera, who hit the game-winning jump shot in La Salle’s first round match against the Bulldogs, played spoiler again as he scored five of his nine points during the crucial stretch that ended NU’s chances at a comeback.
- DLSU showed why they’re the best passing team in the UAAP, as their crisp ball movement led to open looks. There were moments however, where they would be too comfortable with their ball movement that they would fall prey to sloppy passes and careless turnovers.
- NU relied more on isolation situations (and a few heroics from the Ildefonso brothers) and though they managed to score some points off it, it came at the cost of wasted possessions.
- The Bulldogs had 11 offensive rebounds. Justine Baltazar had 10 on his own.
- This game almost came at a cost for the Green Archers as Encho Serrano landed on Issa Gaye’s foot and turned his ankle in the final seconds of the third quarter. He would not return to the game but later that evening, he tweeted that he was “All good 👍😊” (and the Lasallian community heaved a collective sigh of relief).