UST assured twice-to-beat playoff after win over FEU
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer combined for 44 points and the University of Santo Tomas clinched at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat edge after they outdueled Far Eastern University, 85-76, in the men's basketball tournament of UAAP Season 78 on Saturday, November 7 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Growling Tigers, who re-established its position as the "Comeback Cats" this season, overturned a 14-point deficit in the first half and eventually led by as much 78-65 on a Mario Bonleon corner triple with 6:34 to play.
The Espanya-based squad swept the Tamaraws in the eliminations and snapped their 9-game win streak.
"We just played defense," UST head coach Bong Dela Cruz said in Filipino after the game. "Their 3-point shots were falling so I told them to keep executing our defense. We kept on defending and I told them to enjoy playing defense."
Veteran center Abdul had a game-high of 23 points to go with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal as he battled physical and emotional exhaustion in the fourth.
"It was just all heart, man," said the Cameroonian, who collapsed to his knees on the floor in a wave of relief after the final buzzer sounded.
"I didn't want us to lose the game. We had to win this game at all costs. Even though I was kind of tired, coach told me to go hard in the fourth quarter and not make baby shots."
The Tigers also had to deal with the absence of team captain Ferrer, who sat out from late in the third quarter until the midway in the fourth due to palpitations.
Ferrer, who claimed it was the dark chocolate he ate before the game that caused his heart rate to go up, still posted 21 points and 6 rebounds.
"These players are like my children already," Dela Cruz said. "I kept thinking about him during the game and hoping nothing bad happened to him. I prayed for him to be healthy."
Louie Vigil and Ed Daquioag added 13 and 11 points, respectively, while Mario Bonleon proved to be the endgame hero with his crucial momentum-squashing jumper that gave UST some cushion, 83-76, with 1:36 to play.
"I played bad the past few games so I was down," admitted Bonleon, who had 13 markers and 3 boards as the Tigers improved to a 10-3 record.
"So I played harder. For me, this game is all luck and for God. This is what you call scandal of grace."
Mike Tolomia led FEU with 17 points, 6 rebounds, and two assists. The prolific guard drained a 3-pointer to bring his team closest at 81-76 with under two minutes left. Francis Tamsi added 15 points including key treys in the fourth to keep his team afloat.
Mac Belo chipped in 12 markers and 9 boards as the Tamaraws failed to clinch the top seed and slipped to 10-2.
UST (85) - Abdul 23, Ferrer 21, Bonleon 13, Vigil 13, Daquioag 11, Lee 4, Faundo 0, Lao 0, Sheriff 0, Suarez 0.
FEU (76) - Tolomia 17, Tamsi 15, Belo 12, Pogoy 8, Ru. Escoto 6, Arong 5, Jose 4, Orizu 4, Trinidad 3, Iñigo 2, Dennison 0, Eboña 0, Ri. Escoto 0.
Quarter scores: 19-30, 45-45, 69-59, 85-76. – Rappler.com