MANILA, Philippines – Last season's runner-up, Letran, and Jose Rizal University (JRU) will seek to barge into the top half of the league standings as they collide Monday in a duel of teams eager to get back on the right track after a bad start in the NCAA Season 90 tournament at the Arena in San Juan.
After dropping their first two games, the Knights and the Bombers both got back on their feet in their most recent games, with Letran beating the Mapua Cardinals, 79-67, and JRU trouncing the St. Benilde Blazers to register their first wins.
The winner of the 2 p.m. duel will gain a share of the No. 5 spot along with Emilio Aguinaldo and Lyceum, behind four-peat champions San Beda (4-0), Perpetual Help (3-0), San Sebastian (3-1) and Arellano University (2-1).
JRU coach Vergel Meneses said their win over St. Benilde should serve as a wake-up call for his team.
"The reason we lost our first two games was the players didn't listen to our instructions," said Meneses. "But the players learned from it with this first win, and I hope we can sustain this kind of form."
For the Knights, it's a matter of staying focused, with veteran Kevin Racal leading the way.
"That's my role in this team, to motivate my teammates and remind them to just play our game and focus," said Racal, who had 24 points, four rebounds, four assists, a steal and a block in their last game.
Aside from Racal, point guard Mark Cruz should also be a marked man after he fired 23 points in the Knights' first win.
Michael Mabulac, on the other hand, should be the focal point for JRU after he tallied a double-double of 16 points and 12 rebounds against St. Benilde.
Lyceum, for its part, clashes with winless Mapua at 4 p.m.