La Salle's Norbert Torres (6) goes to the basket against UE's Moustapha Arafat (20). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED ) Defending champions De La Salle University overcame a sloppy, turnover-filled game and rallied from a double-digit deficit in the final period to stun the University of the East (UE), 60-58, Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
La Salle entered the final quarter down 36-46, but out-scored UE, 24-12, in the final period, despite losing big men Arnold Van Opstal and Jason Perkins to fouls.
Jeron Teng scored 18 points, to go along with six rebounds and four assists, to help the Green Archers hand the Red Warriors their first loss of the season after having won their first two assignments.
"We were lucky to pull this through with 36 turnovers," admitted La Salle head coach Juno Sauler, whose players committed 22 miscues in the first half alone.
It was rookie forward Prince Rivero who stepped up with Perkins and Van Opstal relegated to the bench, as he scored the go-ahead lay-up with 2:13 to go, then completed a three-point play to boot after he was fouled by UE's Chris Javier.
"We needed Prince, because Arnold and Jason fouled out," said Sauler, adding that it was "gut feel" that prompted him to go with Rivero late instead of veteran Yutien Andrada. "Sometimes you have to go with your gut feel. Prince has been playing the three-spot for us, but we decided to try him out at the four."
UE still led by nine points, 50-41, after a Gino Jumao-as lay-up with a little over eight minutes to go. The Warriors would fail to make a field goal for seven minutes, however, as La Salle steadily cut into the deficit with Teng repeatedly attacking the lane.
Norbert Torres cut the lead to a single point, 49-50, following a three-point play that saw Moustapha Arafat foul out of the game. La Salle tied the lead for the first time in the final period, 51-all, when Van Opstal blew by UE's other import, Charles Mammie, with a little over four minutes to go.
A split at the line by Mammie with 3:07 left gave UE their last lead, 54-53, then Rivero gave La Salle the lead for good with his three-point play with 2:13 left.
A lay-up by Teng with 1:25 to go gave La Salle a little breathing room, but UE remained within striking distance when Roi Sumang converted a difficult jumper with 1:03 left -- only the Red Warriors' second field goal of the fourth quarter.
Teng and Rivero combined to rescue the Green Archers, however, with Teng escaping his defenders to find the rookie wide open for a lay-up. The lay-up gave Rivero eight points in the game.
"Sa huli, we were just looking for the open man," said Teng. "So ako, nag-create na ako, and I found Prince open so binigay ko na lang."
UE still had a chance after Sumang drained two free throws and Teng misfired on a shot, but Sumang's potential game-tying bucket fell short and Torres controlled the rebound.
"They defended very well in the fourth," said Sauler of his players. "I think we gave up 12 points and that was big, giving up 12 points in the fourth quarter to UE. That made the difference also."
But Sauler admitted that they are still struggling without injured starting point guard Thomas Torres, as sophomore Kib Montalbo and off-guard Almond Vosotros are now alternating the quarterbacking duties.
"We're having a problem not only with Almond, but even Kib at the point guard. And then when Kib's out, Almond has to play the point, and then sometimes Robert (Bolick) and Jeron," said Sauler, who then added jokingly: "Maybe if Thomas played, instead of 36 (turnovers), 35 lang."
Sauler said La Salle did prepare for UE's press, something they expect now that Derrick Pumaren is coaching the opposing team. But he acknowledged that "we didn't do a good job against their press" as the Green Archers sometimes failed to even get the ball across the halfcourt line.
The Red Warriors, who play at the fastest pace in the UAAP, did not exactly take advantage of La Salle's miscues, however, as they scored only 19 points off turnovers. They also converted only 31% of their shots, including only five of 14 three-pointers.
UE was at their best in the third quarter, when they out-scored La Salle 18-10 and Sumang ably directed the team. They fell apart in the final period, however, especially when Arafat and Mammie fouled out of the game.
The Red Warriors led by as much as nine points in the second period, 28-19, using their press to force the Green Archers into turnovers. One mishandled pass led to a steal by Jumao-as, who then soared for a lay-up to make it 23-17 with over five minutes to go in the second period. UE's biggest lead came via a Sumang lay-up with 4:04 to go.
La Salle ended the first half strong, however, forcing UE into several rushed shots as well. A bank shot by Almond Vosotros sparked a 7-0 DLSU run, capped by a Torres three-point play with a little over a minute left in the half.
UE took a 28-26 lead into halftime after forcing the Green Archers to commit 22 turnovers.
Sumang led the way for UE with 16 points, but he made only five of 19 field goal attempts. No other Warrior finished in double-digits.
DLSU 60 - Teng 18, Torres 14, Vosotros 12, Rivero 8, Van Opstal 5, Perkins 2, Tratter 1, Montalbo 0, Andrada 0, Bolick 0.
UE 58 - Sumang 16, Varilla 8, Mammie 8, Olayon 7, Galanza 5, Jumao-as 4 Alberto 4, Arafat 3, Javier 2, De Leon 1.
Quarter-scoring: 12-14, 26-28, 36-46, 60-58