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MANILA, Philippines – After blowing a double-digit lead in the first half, the Far Eastern University Tamaraws made sure to take care of business in the game’s final 24 minutes.
Guided by a strong defensive performance in the third quarter and an all-around balanced effort on offense, FEU defeated the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 85-71, on Sunday afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena to win its second game in the 77th season of the UAAP’s senior’s basketball tournament.
The Fighting Maroons have now lost 25 straight games dating back two seasons.
Mike Tolomia led the way with 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, while Mark Belo put up 12 markers and 9 boards. (RELATED: RR Garcia says FEU’s Mike Tolomia ready to turn pro)
Roger Pogoy and Anthony Hargrove also had efficient afternoons, combining for 21 points. FEU, as a team, finished with 23 assists and shot 56% from the field.
“That’s always been the emphasis: team play,” Tamaraws head coach Nash Racela said after the game. “I think, slowly, we’re enjoying to share.”
The third quarter opened with a Kyles Lao jumper, but it was all FEU from there on out. The Tamaraws managed to create easy turnovers by jumping into passing lanes, while Belo and Carl Bryan Cruz converted easy baskets on the other end.
In the blink of an eye, what was a five-point Tamaraws lead increased to 20, 62-42.
Far Eastern University kept its foot on the gas pedal the rest of the way, building a 24-point lead, 70-46, at the end of the third period.
The Fighting Maroons were unable to bounce back after shooting a horrific 6% from the field in the third quarter and suffered a fourth straight loss.
Rey Gallarza and Dave Moralde spearheaded the now 0-4 UP team with 18 and 14 points, respectively.
“I always talk about (the inconsistencies of our team),” Racela added after the game. “We can be very good at times.”
“Right now, we’re in the process of accepting distractions and trying to play through it.”
Tolomia started scorching hot from the field, scoring all of his team’s first 10 points. However, the Tamaraws’ defense was lethargic early on, allowing UP to take a one-point lead during the first game time-out.
Two straight baskets by Hargrove put a halt to a 7-0 Fighting Maroons run and regained FEU the lead, 17-16. The Tamaraws then continued to pound the ball inside and increased their lead to five, prompting UP head coach Rey Madrid to call for time.
At the end of the first quarter, Tolomia and company were ahead, 28-21.
Belo started to make his presence felt to start the second quarter, quickly scoring four straight points to extend the Tamaraws’ lead to 11, 32-21.
“Today, Mac (Belo) showed his true leadership,” mentioned Racela after the contest.
The fighting Maroons managed to avoid getting blown out thanks to a tandem of threes by Gallarza and Moralde, and began to clamp down on defense to get within arms reach, 39-34, with three minutes left in the first half.
After watching their double-digit lead get trimmed to as much as one, the Tamaraws responded by getting the ball inside the paint, where Belo and Cruz converted on consecutive possessions. At the half, FEU managed to extend its lead back up to seven, 45-38, with Tolomia’ 13 points leading all scorers.
FEU (85): Tolomia 18, Belo 12, Cruz 11, Pogoy 11, Hargrove 10, Dennison 7, Tamsi 4, Jose 4, Inigo 3, Denila 3, Delfinado 2, Escoto 0, Escoto 0, David 0, Ugsang 0, Lee Yu 0
UP (71): Gallarza 18, Moralde 14, Lao 10, Juruena 8, Amar 7, Asilum 6, Gingerich 3, Vito 3, Reyes 2, Dario 0, Lim 0, Harris 0
Quarter Scoring: 28-21, 45-38, 70-36, 85-71