Rosario, NU embarrass UST for first win
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The ball found its way into Gelo Alolino's hands midway in the third period and he ran with it all the way to the other end. He had Jamil Sheriff all over him as well as two other UST Growling Tigers, but the veteran heaved a shot that trickled in, giving his NU Bulldogs a 37-23 advantage.
Before that Karim Abdul tried for a lay-up for UST - one that he always made last season - but it rolled out.
It has been that kind of afternoon for the Bulldogs, executing with more certainty and with much precision against a hesistant and sloppy UST en route to a 59-40 victory on Sunday, July 13 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum for their first win in Season 77 of the UAAP.
"I think it was more of a defensive game. Either it was a defensive game or both teams didn't shoot well," remarked NU head coach Eric Altamirano.
"I think we played sound defense and we didn't shoot well."
Sparked by the tall yet shifty Troy Rosario, the Bulldogs started creating some separation between them and their Final Four antagonists last season in a 22-10 offensive third period.
They exploited the many UST errors in that canto as Rosario outperformed his match-up Kevin Ferrer, scoring on putbacks and making his presence felt underneath.
Rosario, who wound up with 9 points and 6 rebounds, also knocked down a triple to counter Renzo Subido's to keep UST at bay, 40-26, at the 3:09 mark of the third and built a 16-point 47-31 lead heading into the final frame.
"Mindset ko pag dating ng third quarter, i-assert ko pa yung sarili ko," said Rosario, who is playing on his last year. (My mindset coming into the third quarter was to assert myself some more.)
Things took a turn for the worst for UST in the fourth as the Bulldogs never lifted their foot off the gas pedal, leading by 20 points, 51-31, on a basket by Kyle Neypes with 6:38 to play.
Last year's finalists, who ousted the first seed NU in the Final Four, looked nowhere near the kind of team they were last season, clearly feeling the absence of a leader in Jeric Teng.
And with 3:25 left in their first game, guard Sheriff dribbled the ball in frustration as new coach Bong Dela Cruz called for a timeout to try and steady his wards.
But it was too late for any kind of comeback as NU stretched the lead once again to 57-37 with under two minutes to play.
The Tigers tallied a total of 26 turnovers. And while the Bulldogs had 22 miscues of their own, the errors came at a crucial stretch of the game. Inside points leaned heavily to NU's side as well, 34-16.
And while rebounding favored UST, 41-36, the Tigers' 3 assists told the story of the miserable basketball they played all game long.
"We were confident about our game," said Altamirano. "I think the boys are starting to jell."
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs managed exceptionally well without their main guy of 3 years, Ray Parks, who opted to forego his last two playing years to chase his NBA dream.
In his absence, NU relied on equal contribution from its first and second units, led by Alolino and his 13 markers.
"It's a new season, we've moved on," Altamirano said. "I think the players understand that Ray is gone. I told them it has to be a collective effort and everyone must give their share."
NU's bench outscored UST's by 24-5. Jess Diputado went two-of-two from deep for his 8 points, while Glenn Khobuntin was also productive with 6 points, 8 boards, 3 assists and two steals.
Bigman Alfred Aroga had 8 markers and 4 boards.
On the side of a UST squad that shot just 14-of-58 total field goals, Karim Abdul had 11 markers and 11 boards, while Aljon Mariano chipped in 10 points on a dismal two-of-12 shooting along with 8 rebounds.
Ferrer finished with only 5 points and 6 rebounds. He turned the ball over 7 times as well and got called for an unsportsmanlike foul.
NU (59) - Alolino 13, Rosario 9, Diputado 8, Aroga 8, Khobuntin 6, Alejandro 5, Neypes 4, Perez 2, Celda 2, Javelona 1, Salim 1, Yu 0, Betayene 0, Atangan 0.
UST (40) - Abdul 11, Mariano 10, Sheriff 7, Ferrer 5, Subido 3, Lo 2, Daquioag 2, Basibas 0, Pe 0, Gayosa 0, Vigil 0.
Quarter scores: 14-9, 25-21, 47-31, 59-40.