Rhenz Abando pumped 22 points as University of Santo Tomas clipped the University of the East Red Warriors, 95-82, to open the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The native of La Union – who transferred from Philippine College of Science and Technology – immediately made his presence felt for the Growling Tigers. He shot 5-of-15 from outside, on top of his four rebounds, three assists, and two steals.
Beninese high-flyer Soulemane Chabi Yo also impressed in his UST debut with his double-double outing of 19 points, 12 rebounds, and one block. Meanwhile, Brent Paraiso and Sherwin Concepcion combined for 20 points.
It was an impressive first game for the Growling Tigers, as they rolled out their newfound desire to light it up from distance. They 14-of-49 from outside for a lead as high as 23 in the payoff period.
Still, the Red Warriors refused to go down without a fight. They sliced the lead down to 10, 90-80, with 1:50 remaining courtesy of a Harvey Pagsanjan and-one play.
Mark Nonoy then ended that rally and his own struggles. He buried a trey for his first bucket in 12 tries to give UST a 93-80 advantage with 1:33 left.
CJ Cansino also marked his triumphant return from a left ACL injury with his statline of nine points, eight rebounds, five assists, and one block.
“It feels good to win your first game because it gives you confidence, [and] boosts your morale, especially if you have nine newcomers. ‘Pag madaming baguhan na players, gusto mo right away in the first game lumabas ang laro ng mga bata para maka-set na ng tone,” said coach Aldin Ayo.
Alex Diakhite lived up to the hype with his 20-point, 21-rebound, and twp-block line in the defeat for UE.
Former CESAFI MVP Rey Suerte topscored for the Red Warriors with 23 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and two steals, as Pagsanjan got 15.
UST next play in three days against fellow new-look team University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons on Saturday, September 7. Meanwhile, UE face the Far Eastern University Tamaraws the next day. Both games will be at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
UST 95 — Abando 22, Chabi Yo 19, Paraiso 10, Concepcion 10, Cansino 9, Subido 5, Cuajao 5, Cosejo 5, Ando 4, Nonoy 3, Huang 3, Pangilinan 0, Bataller 0.
UE 82 — Suerte 23, Diakhite 20, Pagsanjan 15, Mendoza 10, Tolentino 6, Abanto 5, Manalang 3, Apacible 0, Antiporda 0, Sawat 0, Conner 0.
Quarterscores: 27-19, 51-39, 69-52, 95-82.