Matthew Aquino of National University, grabs the shirt of Jeepy Faundo in a rebound play at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay.   JOEY MENDOZA

Big Ben lifts Archers; Bulldogs trip Tigers
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - September 20, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — Boosted by the return of Ben Mbala, La Salle hit max speed and walloped Adamson, 85-73, to join idle rival Ateneo at the summit in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tourney at the MOA Arena last night.

Mbala, fresh from a stellar stint with the Cameroon national team in the Fiba Afro Basket Cup, heralded his return with a personal league-high of 32 points spiked by two triples, to lead the Archers to their third consecutive win and a share of the top. He complemented his heavy point production with 10 rebounds while swatting away four shots in nearly 33 minutes of action. He had eight turnovers, though.

“It was a performance we’re expecting from him,” said DLSU coach Aldin Ayo of his ace import.

With Mbala punching in 10 early points, the Green Archers stormed to a 36-22 tear and went on to post a 55-33 margin at halftime. The Falcons (1-2) mounted serious rallies in the second half and threatened to within seven at 63-70 before Mbala anchored a counter-assault that restored a 79-68 cushion with 4:36 left.

“That was a bad win. We started strong but down the stretch, we committed lots of mistakes, we didn’t execute,” rued Ayo.

Mbala made 11 of his 16 attempts on the floor, sinking half of his four tries from beyond the arc as he displayed the confidence and skills from his Afro Basket experience.

“It was a completely different level there. Some are pros and some are ex-NBA, players who are smart, skilled. You have to find a way to match up and compete. I was able to learn a lot from them both inside game and outside game,” said Mbala.

Earlier, National U needed a strong finish to turn back pesky Santo Tomas, 94-84, and improve to 2-1.

With the Tigers threatening to pull off an upset, the Bulldogs closed out with a 17-6 run in the final 6:57 to regain control and salvage the win.

“It was a hard-fought game, they (UST) were controlling the entire game,” said NU coach Jamike Jarin whose wards are back on track after dropping a 109-115 loss to La Salle last Saturday.

Jayjay Alejandro flirted with a triple double with his 12-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist effort.

“Last game, we weren’t able to make baskets in the end but now because of the experience we had against La Salle, we made the right decisions going into this game,” said Jarin.

Regie Basibas’ career game of 23 markers, eight boards and three steals was put to naught as UST, which committed 12 turnovers and as many fouls in the fourth quarter, slipped to 0-3.


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