MANILA, Philippines – The first UAAP game in two years turned ugly quickly as the FEU Tamaraws buried the UST Growling Tigers, 76-51, in the Season 84 kickoff at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, March 26.
Highly-touted rookie RJ Abarrientos quickly showed what he is capable of as he dropped 9 of his 14 first-half points in the second quarter alone off 4-of-6 shooting from three, which turned a lopsided 22-9 first period lead to a more brutal 47-18 gap at intermission.
The nephew of the legendary Johnny Abarrientos then stepped aside for others in the second half cruise, but still finished with a team-high 18 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists on 6-of-13 shooting in just 20 minutes off the bench.
Bryan Sajonia scored 12 with 8 boards, and 2 steals, while hulking reinforcement Emman Ojuola scattered 8 markers, 6 boards, and 3 dimes in just 16 minutes. Lead Tamaraw guard LJay Gonzales, meanwhile, was a late scratch after suffering an injury just two days before the season opener.
Despite the huge first half lead, FEU refused to let its foot off the gas in the latter two quarters as it went up by as many as 30, 58-28, midway through the third frame, and never looked back. UST only managed to get within 20 points, 48-68, before time ran out on their comeback attempt.
“We’re just happy to get our first win after two long years of waiting. We’re happy that we got that win but we still have a lot of things to do,” said head coach Olsen Racela after the game.
“Of course, we’re happy, but we’re not contented. We have to do a lot of things to prepare for when we get back to the dorm. Coaches and players will get back to work.”
Key transferee Joshua Fontanilla led all scorers in the sorry loss with 19 points on 8-of-16 shooting while Season 82 breakout shooter Sherwin Concepcion was held to just 7 markers plus 5 boards on 1-of-6 from three in 27 minutes.
Both teams, like all other UAAP schools, will return on Tuesday, March 29. FEU will try to start a winning streak at 1 pm against the three-time defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles, while UST will shoot for a breakthrough at 7 pm against the reloaded UP Fighting Maroons.
FEU 76 – Abarrientos 18, Sajonia 12, Ojuola 8, Gravera 6, Coquia 6, Li 5, Bienes 4, Anonuevo 4, Sleat 3, Alforque 2, Dulatre 2, Sandagon 2, Celzo 2, Torres 2, Tempra 0.
UST 51 – Fontanilla 19, Cabanero 12, Concepcion 7, Gomez de Liano 3, Santos 3, Manalang 3, Ando 2, Manaytay 2, Garing 0, Pangilinan 0, Herrera 0, Canoy 0, Samudio 0.
Quarters: 22-9, 47-18, 60-35, 76-51.