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Rivero Bros. come up big as Archers slay Bulldogs for share of lead

La Salle guard Ricci River (L) tries to drive past the defense on NU's Nico Abatayo in this piece of UAAP action. Ricci scored 21 points in the Archers' win. 
By Ricky Manliguis

QUEZON CITY -- In a game featuring two teams with free-flowing offense and no-nonsense defense, La Salle came out and stole the show.

And with Ricci and Prince Rivero banging in some key baskets down the stretch, the defending champions survived the acid test by National University and issue a 115-109 victory for its second straight win in the UAAP Season 80 men’s seniors basketball action at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Cubao, Quezon City.

Trailing 106-107 with still three minutes to go, the Riveros scored six straight points, four coming from Ricci, before Prince delivered a bucket from inside for a 112-107 edge with 24 ticks left.

Playing without big man Ben Mbala for the second straight game, the Archers now share a slice of the lead with idle rivals Ateneo (2-0).

Mbala, who played for the Cameroonian national team in the 2017 FIBA Afrobasket, is set to return in La Salle’s next assignment on Wednesday against Adamson.

The younger Rivero atoned for his forgettable performance against Far Eastern U on opening weekend, top-scoring with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and a block in 29 minutes of action for the high-flying sophomore.

Fellow sophomore Aljun Melecio backed up Ricci with 20 points along with eight rebounds and three steals.

Jollo Go had 19 markers spiked on five triples, while Leonard Santillan fashioned out a double-double of 13 and 16 boards.

“That was a good game. We showed lots of tenacity, we showed lots of resiliency,” DLSU coach Aldin Ayo said at post-game.

The 115 points by DLSU was the highest scoring output of a team since 2003, according to UAAP chief statistician Pong Ducanes. This also marked the first time since 2006 that both teams reached the century mark in scoring.

It was a sorry loss for the Bulldogs (1-1), who at one point ballooned the lead to 11, 80-69, before the Archers’ mini-assault enabled them to pick up a 91-88 lead going into the fourth.

Jordan Bartlett had a game-high 23 markers for NU, even as Jayjay Alejandro churned in 18 and Issa Gaye 16.

La Salle 115 -- R. Rivero 21, Melecio 20, Go 19, Santillan 13, Tratter 11, P. Rivero 10, Caracut 9, Montalbo 8, Baltazar 4.

NU 109 --  Bartlett 23, Alejandro 18, Gaye 16, Salem 12, Aquino 10, Morido 5, Diputado 5, Yu 4, Lastimosa 4, Tibayan 4, Abatayo 4, Mosqueda 2, Rangel 2, Cauilan 0, Joson 0, Flores

Quarter scores: 31-29; 65-61; 91-88; 115-109.
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