MANILA, Philippines – To put in perspective just how tight the Final Four race is in UAAP Season 81, look no further than this matchup between the De La Salle Green Archers and UST Growling Tigers.
If the Tigers (5-5) win over the Archers (6-4), they would share 3rd place. If the Archers win, however, they would strengthen their solo hold of the 3rd spot while pushing the Tigers to a three-way tie at 4th among UP and FEU.
Obviously, La Salle wouldn’t want to hop back into that mess in the middle, but then again, only one team can escape the wreckage.
As if Steve Akomo’s early exit wasn’t a hassle enough, the Tigers now have to deal with the absence of their leading scorer Renzo Subido, who is dealing with a foot injury, in the 2 pm match on Saturday, November 3 at Ynares Center in Antipolo.
UST will now have to ask even more from their hotshot rookie CJ Cansino, who just dropped the first rookie triple-double in their last win against UE.
But it’s nothing the Season 80 juniors MVP couldn’t handle as his 11.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists averages are already team-highs on top of averaging 13.3 points.
Even better, his rebounding numbers are already fourth-best in the league, just behind certified behemoths like Ange Kouame, Bright Akhuetie and Papi Sarr.
The 19-year-old's daily dishes are also third-best in the league, just behind natural playmakers like Juan Gomez de Liaño and Philip Manalang.
Scoring also just comes with the territory for UST, especially with team sniper Marvin Lee lurking around ready for the kickout pass and spot-up three.
That's why they're vying to get even as coach Aldin Ayo's Tigers got embarrassed by his former team last time when the Archers ran away with a 99-72 blowout win in the first round.
La Salle's Aljun Melecio, though, is no stranger either to carrying loads.
With the Green Archers also enduring injuries to key players Kib Montalbo and Taane Samuel, Melecio has been counted on all season long to produce – overproduce, even.
And he’s been getting the job done. Averaging a league sixth-best 15.5 points a game, Melecio has drained at least two three-pointers per game, good for top 5 in the league, on a ninth-best 31.7% clip.
With UST already scrambling to patch up the offensive hole left by Subido, they also have to deal with La Salle’s smothering defense that only allows 67.7 points per game – second-best in the league behind defending champs Ateneo.
The towering Archers are also second in blocks with 5.1 swats a night, just behind the Kouame-boosted Eagles.
However, with what La Salle has on defense, they lack in turn on offense. They’re dead last in the league in assists with only 12.7 a game and they’re also the most turnover-prone squad with a league-high 17 giveaways a game. Although, UST isn’t that far behind either with a second-running 16.3 TOs average.
As for other stats, UST is a jack of all trades and master of none. They have the most perimeter points with 34.5 per game, but also have the worst team field goal percentage at just 34.9%. Apart from that, they’re hovering around the middle, much like their record.
At this point, it’s survival of the fittest for La Salle and UST. The first to adapt goes on top of the food chain. – Rappler.com