MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The FEU Tamaraws held off another spirited comeback from the UST Growling Tigers to move a win away from the title, 75-64, in the men's basketball tournament of UAAP Season 78 on Wednesday, November 25 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tamaraws displayed maturity and experience in the endgame as the Tigers came roaring back from 14 points down in the first half.
FEU stayed composed amid the extreme pressure and atmosphere inside the arena, going on a 12-0 run off a timeout late in the fourth to turn a 61-62 deficit into a 73-62 edge with under a minute left.
FEU, which lost in the Finals last season against NU, won over UST for the first time this year.
"I think it was because of our defense," said head coach Nash Racela. "We had some lapses at the start so they (UST) were able to get some momentum but once we did things correctly, we got our timing." (READ: Racela hopes FEU already champs by his birthday)
Roger Pogoy led the Tamaraws with 15 points after he exploded for 12 in the opening period to go with 3 assists and two steals. Mike Tolomia registered 14 points, 7 rebounds, and two assists.
"Coach Nash just told us to relax," Pogoy shared what the team talked about in the huddle during the timeout called as UST led by a point with 5:56 remaining. "He told us to execute even if UST is leading. Coach always tells us that as long as the game isn't over, there is a chance."
Final Four hero and team captain Mac Belo notched a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds, including 5 on the offensive glass. Both Tolomia and Belo came off the bench for FEU.
Russel Escoto added 12 markers and 7 boards, while big man Prince Orizu had valuable contributions of 10 points and 9 rebounds.
The Tamaraws made sure to capitalized on the Tigers being the worst rebounding team in the league, dominating the glass, 56-22. FEU had a 22-11 edge in offensive rebounds to come away with 17 second-chance points.
"We talked about it before the game. We said that one thing we’ve been doing really well is rebounding," said Racela.
"The rebounds were a big help to us," added Tolomia in Filipino. "We need to help each other in getting the rebounds so we can run right away and get going in transition."
The Tigers, which led the league in points scored during the eliminations, struggled offensively and tallied only 5 assists all game long compared to their foes’ 13.
Karim Abdul topscored for the Espanya-based squad with 19 points and 9 rebounds in 36 minutes of play. Kevin Ferrer added 15 markers on 6-of-16 field goal shooting including 3 rebounds.
Missing in UST’s offense is Ed Daquioag with just 4 points on a single field goal to go with 5 rebounds. The graduating Daquioag fouled out with over a minute remaining.
Game 2 is on Saturday, November 28. — Rappler.com
FEU (75): Pogoy 15, Tolomia 14, Belo 13, Escoto Ru. 12, Orizu 10, Tamsi 5, Jose 4, Arong 2, Dennison 0, Escoto Ri. 0, Inigo 0.
UST (64): Abdul 19, Ferrer 15, Vigil 8, Bonleon 6, Sheriff 6, Lee 6, Daquioag 4, Lao 0, Faundo 0.
Quarter scores: 28-24, 47-34, 57-51, 75-64.