MANILA, Philippines – The lack of an "intimidating" presence inside the paint was a little too much to overcome for De La Salle University in UAAP Season 78, head coach Juno Sauler admitted.
La Salle missed out on the Final Four after squandering a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter to Far Eastern University, 68-71, on Wednesday, to finish with a 6-8 record in the tournament.
(READ: FEU rises from the dead to end DLSU’s season)
A win over the Tamaraws would have given La Salle a playoff for the fourth spot against defending champion National University, but once more the Green Archers exhibited an inability to maintain leads -- something that has plagued them all throughout the season.
"We couldn't get things done," Sauler said simply after the contest.
The sorry loss ended a difficult season for La Salle. The Green Archers' campaign was dealt an early blow when big man Ben Mbala was declared ineligible to play for violating the UAAP's residency rules, and his absence hung over the team throughout the season.
"Our main weakness really this season is that we use Prince (Rivero) at the center, and he's probably 6-2," Sauler pointed out. "Our 4-man, Jason (Perkins) is not really that tall also."
Abu Tratter and Larry Muyang, La Salle's other bigs, were in and out of the rotation, and played inconsistently when they were on the floor.
"We will have to compete with FEU that has (Prince) Orizu, Ateneo has (Chibueze) Ikeh, Adamson has (Pape) Sarr. UP has (Cheick) Kone. NU has (Alfred) Aroga and UST has (Karim) Abdul," Sauler said.
"All those guys are 6-6 and above. For Prince, at 6-2, to be manning the middle… that's why we're the last in blocks. We don't have any intimidating factor," he added.
"If Ben was there, maybe he could have made the difference."
If everything goes according to plan, Mbala will finally be able to suit for La Salle next season. They will also welcome back point guard Kib Montalbo from injury and may also have transferee Mark Dyke available.
Sauler is also hoping that their fourth-year players will opt to return for their final year of eligibility. Jeron Teng has already announced that he plans to do just that.
"Hopefully he (Teng) will get to influence the other guys and come up with a better showing next year," he said.
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