The De La Salle Green Archers launched a strong closing run to notch an 84-77 victory and formally eliminate the NU Bulldogs in UAAP Season 81 Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The third-seeded Archers extended their winning run to three games for an 8-4 slate that assured them of at least a playoff for a Final Four slot.
"Going to this game, we know how important this win is for us. If we lost, we will be put in a difficult spot," said DLSU coach Louie Gonzalez.
Santi Santillan topped with 18 points and five rebounds, while Aljun Melecio and Andrei Caracut had 13 points apiece and combined for five assists.
Justine Baltazar finished with 11 points, including a crucial jumper in the final minute, to go with 11 rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
"We are facing a difficult task ahead that's why we needed them to focus on this game. This is really a collective effort from everyone, from the players to the coaches," added Gonzalez.
The Bulldogs were trailing by a single point with under three minutes remaining, 74-75, after Dave Ildefonso completed a three-point play. La Salle, however, torched with a 9-1 rally that sealed the deal.
John Lloyd Clemente exploded for 17 first-half points including five triples to tow NU to a 40-38 lead at the break, but he was limited to just two points in the last two quarters.
Dave Ildefonso delivered 20 points in the loss that dropped the skidding Bulldogs out of contention with a 3-9 card.
DLSU (84) - Santillan 18, Melecio 13, Caracut 13, Baltazar 11, Manuel 10, Dyke 6, Go 6, Bates 4, Serrano 3, Capacio 0, Corteza 0.
NU (77) - Ildefonso D. 20, Clemente 19, Gallego 7, Yu 7, Ildefonso S. 5, Rike 4, Gaye 4, Joson 4, Sinclair 3, Diputado 2, Malonzo 2, Aquino 0, Galinato 0, Morido 0, Salim 0. Quarterscores: 17-13, 38-40, 65-62, 84-77
- It was a close fight that saw five deadlocks and three lead changes until the Archers came up with a strong finishing kick to secure the win.
- La Salle rookie Joaquin Manuel chipped in with a personal-best 10 points, alongside three assists and two rebounds.
DLSU - November 11 (Sun) vs Ateneo Blue Eagles at Smart-Araneta Coliseum
NU - November 11 (Sun) vs FEU Tamaraws at Smart-Araneta Coliseum