MANILA, Philippines - It's not how you start, but how you finish.
For Coach Juno Sauler's club on Saturday, August 23, that was the case as the De La Salle Green Archers pushed their winning streak to seven by beating the UP Fighting Maroons, 86-65, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Almond Vosotros had his most effective game of the season by going for 21 points on 8-of-14 shooting while also dishing out 4 assists. Jeron Teng, despite struggling from the field and shooting just 36%, contributed 15 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists, while Jason Perkins finished with 13 and 11.
Although La Salle was victorious and tied Ateneo atop the league standings at 7-2, Sauler was unhappy with the way the Green Archers came out of the gates.
"I think some guys weren't ready to play, weren't focused mentally in terms of what we wanted to achieve," said Sauler, whose club committed a lot of turnovers in the first half and led only by six heading into halftime.
"Our energy level was really down. That's why I think when Abu Tratter came in in the third quarter he brought in a lot of energy," he added.
UP opened the third quarter by scoring five quick points to get within one, though DLSU quickly reclaimed the momentum as Teng converted a layup to stop the bleeding.
After which, consecutive triples by Vosotros and Perkins pushed their team's advantage to nine.
The Green Archers' defense in the third quarter refused to let the Fighting Maroons get open looks from downtown, while La Salle got easy opportunities on offense and at the free throw line from Teng and Abu Tratter, who finished with 7 points and 4 rebounds.
For the remainder of the third period, DLSU continued to pound the ball inside and get easy scoring opportunities against UP's paltry interior defense. Heading into the final quarter, La Salle was ahead by 15, 58-43, and never looked back en route to the win.
Arnold Van Opstal had 12 points and 8 rebounds in his first game back, while managing a +8 on the +/- scale while he was on the court.
"We just have to manage his minutes," Sauler said about Van Opstal after the game. "We're trying to be cautious also," he added later on.
La Salle dominated the boards, 52-36, but had 18 turnovers in the contest.
UP was led by Rey Gallarza and Miguel Reyes, who combined for 32 points and 7 rebounds. The Fighting Maroons fall to 1-8 on the season, good for seventh place in the standings.
DLSU will look to extend their winning streak to eight when they take on the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday, August 27.
"They're playing a lot better compared to how they played in the opening," stated Sauler, whose team lost to FEU the last time both clubs met.
"FEU's a lot stronger compared to when we played them."
La Salle's trio of Teng, Vosotros, and Perkins were on point in the first half, as the three combined for 30 of the team's 40 points. UP, on the other hand, leaned on Gallarza, who went off for 14 markers in the game's first 20 minutes of play.
DLSU managed to take control of the rebounding department early on, having a 25-17 advantage on the boards heading into halftime. However, the Fighting Maroons stayed within striking distance by forcing Green Archers miscues and getting eight points off 11 turnovers.
DLSU (86): Vosotros 21, Teng 15, Perkins 13, Van Opstal 12, Tratter 7, Sargent 6, Montalbo 4, Torres 4, Andrada 2, Bolick 2, Mustre 0, Rivero 0, Salem 0
UP (65): Gallarza 18, Reyes 14, Moralde 11, Juruena 9, Asilum 5, Gingerich 2, Vito 2, Gonzales 2, Harris 2, Lao 0
Quarter Scores: 20-15, 40-34, 68-53, 86-65