DLSU bounces back, forces UAAP men’s hoops do-or-die finals against UP

The DLSU Green Archers lived another day (The UAAP Facebook)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers showed resiliency and poise to force a winner-take-all UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball finals against the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons.

Entering Game 2 in deep waters after absorbing the most lopsided loss in a UAAP grand finals game, the Topex Robinson-led DLSU squad was unfazed and executed the adjustments they wanted to even the series, 82-60, last December 3, 2023, held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

The Green Archers gave the Fighting Maroons a dose of their own medicine after staying physical with their defense that slowed down the UP spitfire offense.

From an efficient shooting in downtown, the Green Archers held UP down to a sub-par shooting performance after locking down the three-point area from the get-go.

Aside from limiting the Fighting Maroons’ shooting, DLSU also denied UP of any easy baskets underneath after hosting a blocking party.

UP was still keeping it close in the first half after their two-man game with JD Cagulangan and Malick Diouf did damage in the shaded lane.

However, after Francis Escandor hit back-to-back three-pointers that swelled DLSU’s advantage to six points, 44-38, the Green Archers started to steamroll UP and didn’t give up their lead until the fourth frame.

Escandor became the sparkplug for DLSU midway through the second quarter as his lights-out shooting from deep and consistent perimeter defense steered the Green Archers to a commanding lead.

Despite only scoring four points, DLSU’s superstar point guard Evan Nelle proved that he is still the stabilizer of the Green Archers after recording 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals.

Nelle was just everywhere on the court, reading UP’s offensive schemes while finding ways for his teammates to become productive with his on-point passing.

The backcourt duo of Joshua David and CJ Austria also lifted the Green Archers after the 1-2 punch scored 12 and 11 points, respectively.

As UP played their signature zone defense in the second half, it was the duo that hurt the Fighting Maroons as their efficient three-point shooting busted the zone.

Newly crowned UAAP MVP Kevin Quiambao finally redeemed himself after a dismal Game 1 performance and chipped in nine points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks.

Meanwhile, in the UP side, CJ Cansino and Diouf led the squad with 11 points each but their supporting cast failed to replicate their waxing hot offense in Game 1.

Both squads will look to raise the coveted UAAP men’s hoops championship trophy for all the marbles on December 6, 2023, to be held at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.