MANILA, Philippines - Surprise leader Jose Rizal University tries to stretch its win run to three as it takes on Emilio Aguinaldo College today in a duel of unbeaten teams in the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The Bombers scrambled past the Mapua Cardinals, 65-64, in the opener then trounced the Arellano U Chiefs, 77-65, last week to tie the defending champion San Beda Lions for the lead.
But the Generals are going all-out to foil the Bombers in their 4 p.m. encounter and fuel their own bid for a share of the lead after scoring a 75-72 victory over the Chiefs last June 25.
To sustain their fine start, Jose Rizal coach Vergel Meneses stressed the need for his wards to concentrate on defense.
“I always tell my players that for us to have a chance to win here, we need to play tough defense,” said Meneses.
Meanwhile, St. Benilde and Mapua seek to bounce back from their previous defeats as they clash at 6 p.m.
Focus will be on Fil-Am Nate Matute, who exploded for a career-best 29 points, including a 17-point third quarter binge that carried JRU past Arellano.
“We need those kinds of performance from our players. I just hope he (Matute) will be more consistent this year,” said Meneses.
EAC coach Gerald Esplana, a former PBA star like Meneses, also expressed confidence about their chances this year.
“Although it’s just one game, I have a good feeling this season,” said Esplana, who hopes to draw big games from Russell Yaya, Cameroonian Noube Happi and Franz Chiong.
Yaya made clutch free throws and finished with 17 points clutch free throws against the Chiefs while the 6-7 Happi churned out a solid 14-point, 17-rebound performance.
Chiong, on the other hand, directed the team’s play and finished with 10 assists, six points and two steals.