Dropping four of their last five outings prior to this match, the NU Bulldogs went back to championship form with a big victory over the FEU Tamaraws, 25-13, 25-23, 25-23 held at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs opened the game on a good note with their early four-point lead including a block and two spikes. Combination plays were effective for NU but too much muscle on several hits gave the Tamaraws the chance to claw back into the frame.
With FEU managing to tie the set for the first time at eight, the Bulldogs responded by putting on double and even triple blockers against the Tamaraws’ spikers to restore a 12-8 edge. After a Tamaraw timeout, the Bulldogs punched in three more points to extend their lead to as high as seven. NU’s Paglinawan made noise with his personal scoring spree whenever he got a chance in the frontcourt to stop FEU’s hopes for a comeback. With Gacutan’s hit going outside, NU doubled the scoreboard with a 20-10 lead and eventually winning the opening set up by 12.
Both teams found themselves tied at 10 with multiple exchanges in terms of spikes and errors. NU had three early service aces in the first half of the second set that spelled the difference despite having slightly more errors during the canto.
After a flurry of points romped up by both squads, NU and FEU was tied at 22-all making things tightly-contested. After an FEU timeout, however, they succumbed to a crucial service error and a block by NU. The Bulldogs cap and escaped the second frame with a two-point lead.
Looking to bounce back, FEU opened up the third set with improved floor defense to give them an 8-5 lead. Miscommunication from NU also caused them to trail the third set. Trailing by three at 12-15, NU unleashed a barrage of hits capped off by a spike from Ruben Baysac to tie things up at 16.
With NU within a point away from sealing the match, FEU refused to quit with a critical service ace and a block on Peter Torres to make it a 24-23 affair. However, a pivotal service error from the Tamaraws haunted their chances and aided in an NU victory.
The Bulldogs built a huge disparity in terms of spikes, 34-26 and were plus ten on blocks, 13-3. They scored more on service aces, 5-3 and committed less errors, 23-27.
Three players from NU contributed in double figures led by Jan Paglinawan’s 12. Torres and captain Reuben Inaudito had eleven apiece.
The win gives NU an 8-4 standing and still holds a solo 4th spot and reducing the gap between the third seeded UST team down to half a game. On the other hand, FEU drops to 5-7, hurting their chances of a final four berth.
The Bulldogs next assignment will be up against UE on Sunday, Feb 15 8am at the Smart Araneta Coliseum while FEU looks to bounce back against league-leading Ateneo on Valentine’s day, 8am at the Filoil Arena in San Juan.
NU – Paglinawan 12, Inaudito 11, Torres 11, Tolentino 9, Baysac 7, Mangulabnan 2, Tipay (L) 0, Dizon (L) 0
FEU – Cayaban 9, Dolor 9, Solis 5, Gacutan 3, Camcam 2, Margate 2, Refugia 1, Paler 0, Barrica 0, Marmeto (L) 0, Marmeto (L) 0