The National University Lady Bulldogs survived four quarters of highly physical basketball that saw technical fouls, ejections, and one very bad fall to rout the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigresses, 73-68.
The Lady Bulldogs and Tigresses figured in a tough first half. After duelling the Espana-based squad to a 13-all draw to end the first quarter, the Lady Bulldogs would soon find a way to pull away from the Tigresses in the second quarter, outscoring them 21-15 and head into the second half with a 34-28 edge.
Shelley Gupilan and Afril Bernardino would continue the scoring barrage for NU come the third quarter. An unwavering UST would go all out on the defensive in an attempt to cull NU’s seamless offense. Come the seventh minute of the quarter, things would start to fall apart for the Tigresses. UST’s Kim Reyes would be ejected after giving up a hard foul. Mere moments later, a technical foul was called on a UST assistant coach for contesting the call. A couple of baskets later, UST head coach Chris Cantojos was called for a technical foul.
With UST giving up foul after foul, NU would capitalize on the inflow of extra points and slowly build the double digit lead. Another technical foul on Cantojos for arguing with the referee would result to his ejection in the game with a minute remaining in the quarter. With the Lady Tigresses unable to stop the bleeding, the Lady Bulldogs would build a nineteen point lead in the late third quarter, and head into the final period with a commanding 62-44.
However, come the fourth quarter, UST would enter the court with no sign of being daunted, despite playing without their head coach on the sidelines. Lore Rivera would rally the Tigresses to open the quarter, leading a sudden UST charge that would hold the Lady Bulldogs to a mere three points in the first five minutes, with the Tigresses sinking eleven baskets to trim the eighteen point lead to ten by the halfway point. A three-pointer by Giles Pernia moments later would bring the lead to single digits for the first time since the early third quarter.
The Lady Bulldogs would find their lead down to two, 65-63. A basket by Gupilan would end NU’s cold spell to bring them back up, 67-63 entering the final three minutes. UST however would continue struggle, failing to overtake despite getting defensive stops.
Up by 69-66 in the last minute and a half, UST’s leading scorer Rivera fouled after fouling NU’s Andrea Tongco, who would have to be carried from the court on a stretcher a bad fall. Without Rivera’s hot shooting, UST would fail to hit every chance to overtake the Bulldogs. Free throws from NU’s Afril Bernardino would help the NU gain a 71-66 lead. With time on their side, the Lady Bulldogs would hold on to the win.
NU’s Shelley Gupilan had 23 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists, while Afril Bernardino had 20 points and 7 rebounds. UST scored 23 points while bringing down 12 boards and dishing out 5 assists before fouling out.
The Lady Bulldogs remain unbeaten at 8-0, while UST fall to 4-4 to open the second round. The large number of penalties on slapped on UST in the third quarter drew protests from the UST cheering gallery.