MANILA, Philippines — Thanks to the all-star efforts of Karim Abdul, the University of Santo Tomas (UST) is a step closer to securing a coveted twice-to-beat semifinal advantage spot after defeating Far Eastern University (FEU) 77-73 in the UAAP Season 74 men’s basketball tournament today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The UST Tigers dominated the start of the game, boasting a double digit lead for most of the first half. A valiant push by the FEU Tamaraws in the second half, however, turned the possible shut-out into an exciting, nail-biting fight.
The game was fast-paced and explosive from the very beginning.
Rookie Kevin Ferrer scored seven points for UST to put the Tigers up 23-11 at the end of the first quarter. FEU struggled to catch up to UST, which led by 18 points in the beginning of the second quarter, but the Tamaraws could not match the Tigers’ aggressive offense and were behind 45-32 at halftime.
It was a different FEU team that emerged from the dugout for the second half.
The Tamaraws clawed back after their tight and improved defense limited the Tigers to only 10 points in the third quarter. Abdul’s influence on the game was highlighted by FEU’s 10-2 run, that started when he sat down and left the game.
An impressive rally by the Tamaraws cut the Tigers’ lead by the end of the quarter to a mere 2 points, of which standout rookie Roger Pogoy was a big contributor. Pogoy had 14 points going into the game’s final quarter.
After playing catch up for much of the game, the Tamaraws finally tied the Tigers 64- 64 with five minutes left on the clock. They were last tied at 2-2.
But UST would not let a win slip from their hands.
The Tigers halted FEU’s efforts, gaining a three-point lead after two back-to-back three pointers, by Christopher Camus and Ferrer, with 1:21 left on the clock. Abdul finished with 20 points including two free throws with less than a minute left, supported by two more from the line by Camus.
It was a crucial game from the start.
After La Salle lost their earlier game today against National University 56-40 and consequently, their Final Four spot, UST was assured a semifinal berth.
Both the Tigers and the Tamaraws were hoping to move toward the No.2 spot in the step-ladder semifinals that would give them a twice-to-beat bonus. It was the Tigers that triumphed today.
Ateneo, Adamson, FEU and UST, are the four teams that will be competing in the semifinals.
The Tigers’ victory stretched their winning streak to five games. They now boast an 8-5 record and have a chance to grab a twice-to-beat edge.
If the Tigers and FEU (8-5) win their respective games this weekend, and Adamson (9-4) loses against Ateneo, there will be a three-way tie among the Tigers, the Tamaraws and the Falcons at No.2.
The team with the lowest quotient will fall to fourth place and the other two teams will have to fight for the No.2 spot in a playoff.
UST 77 – Abdul 20, Ferrer 19, Fortuna 14, Teng 11, Camus 9, Vigil 2, Lo 2, Tan 0, Sheriff 0, Lao 0, Pe 0 Ungira 0
FEU 73 – Garcia 17, Pogoy 14, Romeo 12, Excimiano 10, Ramos 8, Tolomia 6, Escoto 3, Foronda 3, Cruz 0, Bringas 0
Quarter scores: 23-11, 45-32, 55-53, 77-73
Follow the reporter on Twitter: @natashya_g