The end of the opening round had the same result as the opening of the second round. And the Far Eastern University Tamaraws have Monbert Arong to thank for it.
The Cebuano transferee knocked down the game-winner with 3.7 seconds remaining in the game to take a 57-56 win over the National University Bulldogs, Sunday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The win is FEU’s fifth straight, while NU suffered their first losing streak this season, both against the Tamaraws.
After dropping 20 points in their opening round encounter, Arong was able to overcome a bad shooting game as he finished with 13 points. But his biggest contribution this time around was his cold-blooded jumper in the clutch moments of the game.
With FEU down 57-56 with 6.6 left, the ball found its way to 24-year-old gunslinger. Arong then freed himself from Alfred Aroga with a pump fake, before swishing a jumper with three ticks left.
“Wala akong masasabi kung hindi ang bait ni God. Wala akong laging binubulong kung hindi ‘I can do all things through Christ,'” he said, saying he hadn’t doubted himself even if he had been just 4-of-12 from the field prior to that play. “Kaya confident ako na ma-shooshoot ko yung ball.”
Aroga attempted the last shot for the Bulldogs as he went for a long jumper over the outstretched arms of two Tamaraw defenders, but the shot went way left as the buzzer sounded.
After scoring 22 points in the first three quarters, the Cameroonian student-athlete was held scoreless in the final frame, tallying 22 points and 13 rebounds in the game but committing seven errors. FEU’s defensive stand was led by Raymar Jose with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
“Yung mga players na pumasok sa loob sacrificed their bodies to defend Aroga,” FEU head coach Nash Racela said.
The Tamaraws had to rally back to start the final frame, battling a five-point deficit. Arong sparked a 10-2 run capped by a shot clock-beating triple with 6:16 left to give FEU their biggest lead of the game, 55-52.
A basket by Rev Diputado and a split on the stripe by Jay Alejando tied the game at 55-all, while a split by rookie Joshua Sinclair gave NU a one-point lead with 46.5 seconds remaining.
“NU made good adjustments for today’s game. They made it hard for us to execute,” Racela added. “Obviously today, we focused on Alejandro pero si Aroga naman naging problema today.”
After dropping a career-high 33 points last Wednesday, Alejandro was limited to just seven points on a horrid 1-of-10 shooting clip.
Even if they were out-rebounded 49-37, the Tamaraws were able to take advantage of NU’s 25 errors, scoring 15 points.
The FEU Tamaraws (6-2) will next face the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers (2-6) on Wednesday, October 13, at 4:00pm. On the other hand, the Bulldogs (4-4) face the same opponent on Saturday, October 15, at 4:00pm.
FEU (57) – Jose 14, Arong 13, Comboy 7, Trinidad 6, Escoto 5, Dennison 4, Holmqvist 3, Denila 2, Ebona 2, Orizu 1, Tuffin 0, Bayquin 0, Roxas 0.
NU (56) – Aroga 22, Diputado R 8, Alejandro 7, Gallego 6, Sinclair 5, Morido 2, Pate 2, Go 2, Salim 1, Rangel 1, Salem 0, Diputado C 0, Mosqueda 0, Yu 0.
Quarterscores: 19-19, 30-32, 45-50, 57-56.