Highly-touted import Ben Mbala passed his initial test with flying colors on Wednesday night when he helped La Salle defeat defending champion Far Eastern U, 83-78, in the UAAP Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The 6-foot-7 Mbala threw his full weight around in the lane, hauling down a game-high 23 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive glass, on top of 13 points and four blocks while anchoring the Green Archers’ interior defense against the Tamaraws.
But Mbala, a former NBA Basketball Without Borders MVP, felt he could have done even better despite dishing out what could be considered a dominant performance by regular standards.
“I think there’s still a lot of adjustments. It was pretty hard but I have to find ways to get back to my game,” he pointed out during the post-match interview, with La Salle’s first-year coach Aldin Ayo and star wingman Jeron Teng sitting beside him.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s UAAP or FilOil or other league, I still have to be able to come out there and provide what coach asked me to provide.”
While he proved to be solid defensively, Mbala struggled to get his offense going as he groped for form against FEU’s collapsing defense, anchored by fellow Cameroonian Prince Orizu, making just five of his 13 attempts from the field in more than 34 minutes of tireless play.
“This is really telling me a lot about being double-teamed, triple-teamed. I have to be able to make the adjustment and be able to read (the defense), make the good decision on when to attack or when to kick the ball out,” he stressed. – By Jerome Lagunzad
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