Karim Abdul relieved as UST stays in Final Four hunt
MANILA, Philippines - The UST Growling Tigers nearly blew it, and in the process nearly put themselves further down in the race to the Final Four in Season 77.
But in the end, they managed to pull out a slim two-point victory over the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 61-59, on Saturday, August 16, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum, to improve to 4-4 and grab hold of the fifth seed in the league standings.
NU, currently ranked number four, has a 5-2 win-loss card.
Karim Abdul, the Growling Tigers' Cameroonian import who is in his final season of eligibility, played sparingly in the game, used for only 4.5 minutes in the third quarter as he continues to recover from a viral infection that also kept him out of his team's loss to the UE Red Warriors on Wednesday, August 13.
"Gusto namin ma feel in Karim yung game, especially kung kailangan namin siya sa huli," UST coach Bong Dela Cruz explained of the decision to play his big man for a while in the second half against the Soaring Falcons following the game.
(We wanted Karim to feel the game, especially if we needed him late in the contest.)
"I'm still feeling a bit groggy. I just got out of the hospital yesterday." Abdul shared in an interview with the media after watching his club barely scrape by Adamson.
"Right now, si Karim, nasa 60 percent palang,"according to Dela Cruz.
(Right now, Karim's at 60 percent.)
Nonetheless, Abdul is happy his UST team came out on top, and in the process won one of the six victories they hope to attain for the rest of the second round.
Louie Vigil had 13 points, while Ed Daquioag contributed 11 in the win. Kevin Ferrer and rookie Renzo Subido had 8 markers each, and Aljon Mariano registered 7 points and 12 boards.
"It was really important. I was just praying that the guys would win today," according to the MVP candidate who spent five days in the hospital due to the viral infection.
"Because we need, I think, we need at least six games to get into the Final Four and it's not against Adamson that we should lose our spare card, right?" he added.
UST managed to outrebound Adamson, 43-41, including pulling down four offensive rebounds late in the game to give the Soaring Falcons just one opportunity late in the contest to potentially steal the game.
According to Abdul, he "really wanted to play," but was pleased nevertheless that his teammates did not lose the one game they could in the second round to the cellar-dweller of the UAAP, which currently owns a 0-8 record.
"I mean cause Adamson's not a big fish. If we need to, I mean, sacrifice one game then it's against a team like Ateneo, or FEU, or La Salle, not against Adamson," he explained.
"I'm happy of course cause they were able to win without me, so, I'm happy so we still have one game that we can lose, right?" he added later on.
A loss to the Falcons, Abdul repeated, would have likely put UST out of the playoff picture for good, saying: "If we lost this game then we wouldn't have had any chance, right?"
"I was really happy cause that's what made them win, right? And that's the bottomline. We had to win to stay in the race."
With the final second round schedule of the UAAP still not finalized, UST has yet to find out whom they will face next, which was confirmed by Dela Cruz.
"Hindi ko pa alam yung schedule. Wala pa," the rookie head coach mentioned in the post-game media session.
(I don't know the schedule yet. There's none.)