The De La Salle Green Archers eked out a 75-73 victory over the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum to stay in solo second of the UAAP Season 80 standings.
“Muntik pa,” said La Salle assistant coach Miggy Solitaria about their win that almost slipped away. “I think 100% of the time we just have to stick to the system. Isang beses, dalawang beses na isang player na hindi mag-stick sa system, talagang nagkakaroon siya ng impact agad eh.”
Ricci Rivero top-scored for DLSU for the second straight match as he posted 20 points, five assists, and two steals. Ben Mbala had 18 points and 17 rebounds, but he only shot 5-for-16 from the field and committed four turnovers, as FEU focused their defense on the reigning MVP.
The Green Archers led by as high as 16 points but the Tamaraws fought back in the second half until it all boiled down to the very last play.
With 2.2 seconds left on the clock, Prince Orizu dunked the ball to allow FEU to come within a single point, 74-73. Ricci Rivero was fouled but he split his charities and committed a free throw violation on his second attempt.
La Salle was just up by two points and the Tamaraws had the golden opportunity to send the game to an extra period or even steal the game if they convert from beyond the arc. Andrei Caracut, however, was able to intercept the inbound pass of Ron Dennison to Orizu inside the paint to secure the defending champions’ victory.
FEU managed to make it a three-point ballgame, 74-71, after a Hubert Cani three-pointer at the 1:20 mark. Unfortunately, the Tamaraw point guard made an error and lost the leather in their next possession.
Rivero trooped to the stripe with 12.6 seconds left but he missed both shots, leading to the Orizu jam that almost closed the gap. Fortunately for the Archers, they made a stop in the final two seconds to salvage the win.
Ken Tuffin made crucial baskets down the stretch and paced FEU in the loss as he finished with 14 points. Cani and Ron Dennison chipped in with 13 and ten points respectively.
La Salle grabbed their sixth victory in eight games, while FEU fell to a 4-4 record.
DLSU (75) – Rivero R. 20, Mbala 18, Go 14, Rivero P. 8, Caracut 7, Santillan 3, Tratter 3, Montalbo 2, Gonzales 0, Paraiso 0.
FEU (73) – Tuffin 14, Cani 13, Dennison 10, Parker 9, Eboña 8. Escoto 7, Orizu 7, Iñigo 3, Ramirez 2, Stockton 0, Trinidad 0, Comboy 0.
Quarterscores: 18-13, 39-35, 62-56, 75-73