When the going gets tough, the Growling Tigers know who to call.
With the La Salle defense locking down on Kevin Ferrer and Ed Daquoiag, veteran Cameroonian foreign-student athlete Karim Abdul provided a vintage performance to continue the University of Santo Tomas rampage in an 81-79 come-from-behind win over the De La Salle University Green Archers early Sunday evening at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It was a back-and-forth affair to open the game for the two bitter rivals. With senior Ed Daquioag exploding in scoring seven of UST’s first 11 points, for an 11-7 lead. Juno Sauler and the La Salle coaching staff placed defensive ace Julian Sargent on him. The Archers then fought back behind excellent ball movement and crisp passing. Behind senior Jason Perkins and rookie Renzo Navarro, the Archers were able to gain a solitary lead to end the first quarter, 22-21.
Kevin Ferrer did not score a single point in the opening stanza of the game. This trend continued in the second quarter due to the La Salle defense locking in on the Smart Elite ambassador. Prince Rivero also displayed his power in the paint in converting on La Salle’s first six points in the quarter. Later on, Torralba and Teng teamed up to extend the DLSU lead to 38-28 with 3:47 to go. Marvin Lee and Mario Bonleon though picked up the slack in the latter stages of the quarter but an unncessary foul by Kent Lao to Torralba beyond the three-point arc led to three free throw conversions for La Salle and an eight point lead to enter the second half, 45-37.
La Salle opened the third quarter with a three-pointer that gave them the biggest lead of the game, 48-37. The Growling Tigers though were powered by Abdul in the third as their jumpers were not falling down. Abdul scored seven points in the quarter in a huge rally that cut the DLSU lead to three. Moreover, they were able to limit the pentetrations of Jeron Teng in the quarter that stagnated the La Salle offense. However, Teng was able to regain his bearings in the final 1:43 of the quarter in scoring on jumpers to retain the Archer lead to enter the fourth quarter, 66-59.
Wanting to retain their outstanding record and with the Santo Tomas faithful cheering wildly on the stands, the Espana cagers unleashed a huge 16-2 blast that gave UST a 73-68 lead. The shots that were not falling for UST in the first quarter finally converted as Ferrer led the charge in scoring eight points in that rally. A desperation three by Lee also led to the momentum swinging towards that gold and white squad. Moreover, the box-and-one defense the Growling Tigers imposed on Teng worked to perfection resulting to turnovers and blank shots for the King Archer. Abdul then helped stave the La Salle rally in converting on two layups, the second coming from a Teng turnover, that extended the UST lead to four, 77-73 with 1:32 remaining. Free throws by Abdul and missed threes by Teng and Torres led to UST’s seventh win, 81-79.
“Iba na yung second round,” coach Bong dela Cruz confessed after the game. “Napaghandaan na kami ng lahat ng teams.”
With five players scoring in double-digits, the second-year head coach told us that he had been waiting for this moment. “Eto na yung hinihintay namin na maging balanced yung scoring. Pero sa depensa hindi pa ito yun.”
Foreign student-athlete Karim Abdul and Kevin Ferrer though both admitted that this was a tough game. “Game was very hard and very physical,” Abdul said. “We really had to step up.”
Karim Abdul had a vintage performance in topscoring for the Growling Tigers. He notched a huge double-double with 18 markers and 11 boards. He was 7/10 from the field and 4/8 from the charity stripe. Ed Daquioag added 17 points as well while Kevin Ferrer still managed to score 15 markers even in shooting just 3/11 from the field. The Smart Elite ambassador also grabbed 11 rebounds.
For the Archers, Jeron Teng had 16 points but again went missing in the fourth quarter. He only managed to score three-points, a useless buzzer-beater to end the game. He was 6/13 from the field, grabbed eight boards, and dished out six assists. However, he committed five crucial turnovers.
Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero, on the other hand, had an excellent outing despite the loss. He scored 13 points on 6/9 shooting in 31 minutes of play. He also added seven rebounds.
As a team, the Growling Tigers were 44% from the field while DLSU was just 41%. Moreover, UST was 18/26 from the charity stripe compared to 12/19 for La Salle.
The league-leading UST Growling Tigers (7-1) will next face the National University Bulldogs (3-5) on Saturday, October 17 at 4:00pm while the DLSU Green Archers (4-4) have the UE Red Warriors (3-5) as their next assignment on the same day at 2:00pm.
UST (81) – Abdul 18, Daquioag 17, Ferrer 15, Vigil 13, Lee 13, Sheriff 3, Bonleon 2, Abdurasad 0, Caunan 0, Faundo 0, Garrido 0, Lao 0, Subido 0.
DLSU (79) – Teng 16, Rivero 13, Torralba 12, Torres 11, Tratter 7, Perkins 6, Sargent 6, Navarro 5, Langston 3.
Quarterscores: 21-22, 37-45, 66-59, 81-79