MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player Ben Mbala barely missed a step in his return from the 2017 Afro Basket tournament.
Mbala was simply dominant as De La Salle University used an overpowering first quarter to surge past Adamson University, 85-73, for its third win in a row in the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In his first game back since a stint for Cameroon in the Afro Basket, Mbala scored a career-high 32 points, while also grabbing 10 rebounds and blocking four shots. He displayed the range that he often showed in Tunisia, knocking down two three-pointers in the first half.
La Salle led by as much as 24 points in the victory en route to joining archrival Ateneo de Manila University at the top of the league standings with identical 3-0 win-loss records.
The Soaring Falcons were able to trim the deficit to single digits at the end of the third quarter, and stayed within striking distance throughout the fourth frame. However, they had dug themselves into too deep of a hole and were unable to complete the comeback.
Leonard Santillan was the only other La Sallian in double-digits with 10 points, although Ricci Rivero contributed 13 rebounds in the win.
"That was a bad win," rued La Salle coach Aldin Ayo after the contest. "We started strong, but down the stretch, we committed lots of mistakes."
"Ang naging problema namin is 'yung execution," he added. "The players thought that after the first half, tapos na 'yung laro. Noong second half, lumabas 'yung pagiging bata."
The Green Archers set the tone with a stunning 36-point first quarter, as they limited Adamson to only 12 points.
The 24-point cushion was enough for La Salle, even as the Soaring Falcons came alive in the final three quarters of the contest and threatened late. They outscored the Green Archers, 28-15, in the third quarter, and trailed by just nine points, 61-70, heading into the final frame.
Adamson came to within seven points repeatedly in the fourth quarter, the last at 68-75 with still 5:43 left, thanks to a lay-up by Papi Sarr. But La Salle had an answer every single time, usually in the form of an Mbala basket.
His lay-up with 4:36 to go pushed La Salle back ahead by double-digits, 79-68, and despite the best efforts of Jerie Pingoy and Jerrick Ahanmisi, they were never able to truly put La Salle in danger. The Soaring Falcons still bowed despite outscoring La Salle, 61-49, in the final three frames.
Rob Manalang scored 16 points, and Sarr had 12 points and 16 rebounds before limping out of the game in the final minute. Pingoy sparked Adamson's comeback with nine points and seven assists off the bench.
Adamson shot only 32.89% from the field, and committed 21 turnovers that led to 19 points for the Green Archers. La Salle actually had more throwaways, with 26, but the Soaring Falcons were unable to fully capitalize as they had only 16 points off those turnovers.
Adamson dropped to 1-2 in Season 80, with both of their losses coming against last season's finalists.
DLSU 85 – Mbala 32, Santillan 10, Tratter 9, Rivero P 8, Rivero R 6, Motalbo 5, Caracut 5, Go 3, Baltazar 3, Melecio 2, Gonzales 2.
ADAMSON 73 – Manalang 16, Sarr 12, Ahanmisi 10, Pingoy 9, Manganti 8, Bernardo 8, Hill 6, Ochea 3, Lojera 1, Espeleta 0, Camacho 0, Mustre 0, Zaldivar 0
Quarter scores: 36-12, 55-33, 70-61, 85-73
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