La Salle’s cloak of invincibility almost got shattered right in its opening game of the UAAP Season 79.
The Green Archers, who were installed as the overwhelming title favorites this season following a dominant run in the pre-season, got a big scare from the defending champion FEU Tamaraws before grinding out an 83-78 win on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Jeron Teng hit big baskets down the stretch that was enough for La Salle to survive and preserved Ben Mbala’s game-long dominance.
The senior forward rattled in a pull-up jumper with 1:30 to go then added two more free throws with 57 seconds left giving the Archers a four-point cushion, 79-75, after squandering several double digit leads.
Teng finished with a game-high 28 points, including 10 in the final period, while Mbala dished out monster numbers of 13 and 23 rebounds. But La Salle’s 1-2 punch accounted for 10 of the Green Archers’ 27 turnovers that enabled the Tamaraws to claw back into the game and come within two, 77-75, after being down by as many as 16.
Rookie Aljun Melecio also shone for La Salle, proving that he is ready to play with the big boys as the former UAAP Juniors MVP fired 10 points in his debut including spectacular plays in the second quarter where he pumped in eight of his total.
FEU, meanwhile, had five players in double figures led by Ron Dennison’s 13 points but as a team, the Tamaraws only shot 41.10 percent that contributed to their losing cause.
DLSU 83 – Teng 28, Mbala 13, Melecio 10, Tratter 7, Montalbo 6, Rivero 6, Torres 4, Caracut 4, Go 3, Sargent 2, Baltazar 0
FEU 78 – Dennison 13, Trinidad 12, Arong 11, Orizu 10, Comboy 10, Jose 7, Inigo 7, Tuffin 4, Escoto 2, Nunag 2, Bayquin 0, Holmqvist 0, Ebona 0
QUARTER SCORES: 28-25, 51-43, 66-63, 83-78