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FEU avoid collapse, outmuscle UST to take Game 1 of the Finals

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In front of 18,640 fans, the stars came out to play in another classic encounter between the Morayta neighbors.

The University of Santo Tomas crept in and eventually took the lead midway through the fourth quarter, but the Far Eastern University Tamaraws limited the Growling Tigers to just a single field goal in the final five minutes of the game. FEU took Game One of the UAAP Season 78 Men’s Basketball Finals, 75-64, late Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Growling Tigers started off strong through their Big Three. consisting of seniors Kevin Ferrer, Karim Abdul, and Ed Daquioag, for an early 8-3 lead capped by a scoop shot by Daquioag. As the Tamaraws settled down, the Green and Gold squad were able to take the lead, sparked by a long jumper by Russel Escoto and capped by five straight points by Roger Pogoy. The two teams then exchanged baskets. FEU maintained a solitary point lead, 19-18, with 2:18 remaining, after a no-look pass by Raymar Jose to a cutting Pogoy, for his 12th point in the quarter. The Tamaraws ended the quarter with a 28-24 lead after a booming triple by Mike Tolomia with seven seconds remaining.

After a high-scoring first quarter, the Tamaraws limited the Growling Tigers to just ten second-quarter points. Constant switching on defense and excellent rebounding contributed to Coach Nash Racela’s squad being able to slowly extend their lead. Prince Orizu delighted the FEU faithful with a thunderous putback dunk at the 7:40 mark to start a 5-0 run on his own. After a Louis Vigil layup that momentarily halted the lead, Pogoy, Jose, and Arong found their mark to give FEU a 45-31 lead. With 33 seconds remaining, as Achie Inigo missed a jumper, Escoto was able to put it back with a one-handed jam. An off-balance floater by Tolomia with three seconds remaining gave FEU a 47-34 lead to enter the break.

Another dunk by Orizu coming from Escoto gave FEU their biggest lead of the ball game, 51-37, at the 7:52 mark of the third quarter. As Coach Bong Dela Cruz mixed and matched his lineups to try and match FEU, the Growling Tigers delved away from their three-point shooting as they slashed through the lanes to grab fouls. It proved effective, as they were able to attempt eight free throws, making all with Abdul hitting four. A floater by Jon Sheriff and a stop-and-pop jumper by Embons Bonleon also helped in UST’s 12-6 rally to enter the final frame with FEU just up by six, 57-51.

In a flash, UST’s pressing defense churned out six quick points in just the first 38 seconds of the fourth quarter. A scoop layup by Ferrer opened the quarter, while a steal by Marvin Lee on Achie Iñigo from the backcourt led to an easy layup by Bonleon. Another Iñigo turnover led to a wide-open layup by Ferrer to tie the game at 57-all. FEU senior Tamsi was able to knock down a jumper to quell the UST run. After both teams struggled to put up points and avoid turnovers, Abdul and Vigil exchanged baskets with Iñigo and Escoto to swap leads. After a Racela timeout, the Tamaraws intensified their defense, contesting all of UST’s attempts. The España cagers could not put up shots and were plagued with turnovers. FEU’s seniors Tolomia, Belo, and Escoto, and rookie Orizu compounded the problem with a 14-2 rally to close out the game. The only field goal the Growling Tigers were able to score was a Sheriff jumper with 23.9 seconds remaining. The FEU Tamaraws took Game One in convincing fashion, 75-64.

Racela credited the team’s defense, as they had kept UST scoreless at the crucial point of the game. “I think it was because of our defense. I think during the start of the fourth we had a few lapses,” he disclosed. “When we did things correctly, we started to find our groove.”

Moreover, FEU’s bench had out-scored their counterparts 38-18, a luxury Racela said they did not have a year ago. “We learned from last year. Last year our players were very tired, we won’t do that again this year,” he said. “It is a luxury that has been afforded to us this year.”

For Mike Tolomia, who had 14 points on 5/16 shooting and seven boards, the team should not celebrate just yet. “Sabi ko lang wag sila mag celebrate kasi last year ganito rin. Nanalo kami ng Game One.”

The FEU Tamaraws had five players score in double-digits. Mac Belo led the victors with a huge double-double of 13 points and 13 boards. Pogoy led the team in scoring with 15 markers, including three triples. Russel Escoto was able to add ten points, while Orizu had his best game of the season with ten points on 4/4 field goal shooting and nine boards.

For the Growling Tigers, Karim Abdul had 19 points and nine boards. He was 7/17 from the field and 5/5 from the charity stripe. Kevin Ferrer had 15 points but was just 1/7 from downtown. Fellow MVP candidate Ed Daquioag had a horrible day, as he fouled out with 1:07 remaining in the game and was limited to just four points.

As a team, FEU greatly out-rebounded UST 56-32 that led to a 17-11 second chance points advantage. The Tamaraws also shot better from the field, 40% from the field compared to just 36%, going just 2/19 from three-point country.

Game Two of the series will be played on Saturday, November 28 at 3:30pm. It is set to be played at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

The Scores:
FEU (75) – Pogoy 15, Tolomia 14, Belo 13, Escoto Ru 12, Orizu 10, Tamsi 5, Jose 4, Arong 2, Dennison 0, Escoto Ri. 0, Inigo 0.
UST (64) – Abdul 19, Ferrer 15, Vigil 8, Bonleon 6, Sheriff 6, Lee 6, Daquioag 4, Faundo 0, Lao 0.
Quarterscores: 28-24, 47-34, 57-51, 75-64.

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