MANILA, Philippines – The De La Salle Green Archers and the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws will battle for the solo lead in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
FEU and La Salle currently share the lead with identical 7-2 win-loss records, with National University and Ateneo tied for third and fourth at 7-3.
Defending champion La Salle has won seven consecutive wins since dropping its first two assignments, the most recent of which was an 86-65 victory over University of the Philippines wherein they pulled away in the second half.
FEU, meanwhile, is coming off a 66-55 win over University of Santo Tomas, which was the Tamaraws' fourth win in a row.
"Kakatakot (ang La Salle) kasi kumpleto na sila eh," said FEU coach Nash Racela of the defending champions, who struggled with injuries to key players at the end of the first round, including Arnold Van Opstal, Norbert Torres and Kib Montalbo.
"I saw Van Opstal play, Montalbo and Torres, so kumpleto na sila. I think (against UP), they were just warming up for Wednesday's game," he added.
Racela said it was vital for the Tamaraws to stay close to the "perceived finalists," referring to Ateneo and La Salle.
"Right now, I think conditioning of the mind is very important, and people are trying to condition that it will be Ateneo and La Salle," he said. "We're just trying to be with them. Subukan namin maka-singit."
FEU had given La Salle one of their two losses this season, when they stunned the defending champions in their first game of the season, 82-77, behind a great performance from Mike Tolomia.
"They're a tough team, and we want to beat them very badly since we're tied with them," Van Opstal said of the Tamaraws.
Game time is at 4 p.m.
In the first game of the double-header, the UST Growling Tigers will try to rebound from their loss to FEU by taking on the UP Fighting Maroons at 2:00 p.m.
UST currently has a 4-5 win-loss record and is trying to keep its Final Four hopes alive. They were dealt a blow, however, when it was revealed that swingman Kevin Ferrer stands to miss two weeks due to a fractured left hand.
The Tigers have lost four of their last five games, with their lone victory coming against the Adamson Falcons.
UP, meanwhile, has lost back-to-back games since its breakthrough victory, also against Adamson, at the end of the first round.