MANILA, Philippines – De La Salle University star Jeron Teng drew words of praise from his normally stoic head coach after his explosive performance against archrivals Ateneo in their second round UAAP match-up last Sunday.
Teng outplayed Ateneo guard Kiefer Ravena on his way to scoring a season-high 32 points along with six rebounds and five assists, in what is arguably his best performance of the entire tournament so far.
His blazing start to the game – after the opening quarter, Teng outscored Ateneo by himself, 15-10 – helped La Salle build a 13-point lead. He also made crucial plays in the final quarter as the Green Archers eked out an 88-86 victory – their sixth straight win of the season.
"The defense started to adjust on Jeron in the second half, and he made very good reads," La Salle coach Juno Sauler told reporters after the game. "He involved his teammates."
"I remember one (play), he was doubled early, somewhere in the midcourt in front of our bench, and then just made the pass to Julian (Sargent). Julian was open because of the double team on Jeron," Sauler added.
"So the reason the other guys were scoring was not because of the minutes that they got, but because of Jeron recognizing the defense," he also said.
Teng himself pointed out that he needed to make the adjustments in the second half of the game after scoring 21 points in the first two quarters, as Ateneo began throwing different looks at him on defense, including double-teams.
"Noong second half, nag-adjust 'yung defense nila, so I also had to adjust. I tried looking for my open teammates," he said.
The defensive attention paid to Teng led to open shots not only for Sargent but also for Robert Bolick, as the two guards combined for 21 points in the game, including three three-pointers.
Sauler also noted that Teng helps keep the Green Archers on an even keel as they go through the tournament, which is something La Salle needs right now as they move on from the win against Ateneo by playing the University of the Philippines.
"We don't look at teams," said Sauler. "Our attitude is always the same, and Jeron sees to that."
"He's our team captain, and he's been the leader for the team and he makes sure that everyone's focused. He helps us a lot in that department," he added.