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Streaks snapped: Aroga’s big shot lifts NU, snaps UST’s record

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A lot of pundits questioned whether Alfred Aroga can take on the responsibility left off by Troy Rosario and Glenn Khobuntin. Down 0-3, the 6’8 versatile big man did not allow to let “his brothers” down.

The defending champions, National University Bulldogs, finally barged into the win column after four games as they nip past the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers in a gut-wrenching 55-54 escape at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on early Saturday evening.

A slow start to the game turnover-wise ensued as the two schools exchanged wasted possessions that combined their point production to eight points in nearly the first four minutes of the match. Scoring only picked up in the last minutes of the opening frame with jumpers starting to fall for both teams. No sorts of momentum was distinct as NU’s early four point lead was erased and UST managed to tie things up at 17 after 10 minutes of action.

Despite being silent for the first three minutes of the period, the Tigers built a 7-0 counter after NU scored the first four points of the second canto. However, the Tigers would only manage to score 3 points in the last 5:45 of the quarter as NU’s defense started to have its bite against UST’s offense.

As the Tigers struggled in turnovers, Nico Abatayo and Gelo Alolino anchored the late run for the Bulldogs by scoring and dishing out the ball. In the dying seconds of the first half, Alolino fed Kyle Neypes just before the quarter expires to give NU the biggest lead of either teams after two periods, 33-26. This caps a dominating half in terms of paint points, as the Bulldogs outscored the Tigers by a dozen from inside.

Responding to a scoreless first half, Ed Daquioag started to find his stride in the third period as he scored the Tigers’ first seven points of the quarter. NU responded with good ball movement, however, shots started to go wide with good closeouts by the UST defenders from the perimeter. With momentum slowly shifting to the España-based crew, Kevin Ferrer knocked down two bigtime triples to give UST a 43-41 lead, late in the third.

As the champs went cold to open the fourth, UST inked five quick points including a three point bomb by Mario Bonleon to extend their lead to seven at the 7:15 mark. The Bulldogs snapped a 15-0 run by UST during the halfway point of the payoff period with a tough hook by Alfred Aroga. Afterwards, NU woke up from its scoring slump as they sliced UST’s lead to one with Diputado and Neypes doing necessary scoring damage.

A successful pick-and-roll play by Alolino and Aroga in the final minute helped the Bulldogs take back the lead, 53-52. After a series of frantic possessions,the reliables scored on big shots as Daquioag completed a fast break off a steal that was answered by a tough fallaway baseline jump shot by Aroga with 14.7 ticks left. Ferrer missed his attempt on the other end and NU survived the match despite Alolino’s missed free throws during the dying seconds.

“We had through go a lot the past three games,” Coach Eric Altamirano reflected after the game. “But our players, they vowed to comeback and today they played with heart. We started off strong and were able to hang one to get this victory.” Moreover, Coach E does not blame anyone as to why they are in the predicament. “It is hard when you don’t win but we put ourselves in this situation.”

“The play was for me,” Alfred Aroga said about the final play. “Coach E hates that shot but I’ve been practicing that in practice. I just took it.” After the shot, Aroga jokingly said, “sarap niyan!”

Alfred Aroga bounced back big time in this game as he scored 19 points and grabbed 12 boards. He was 7/14 from the field and 5/10 from the charity stripe. Jay Alejandro led the bench mob with 9 markers, all from three point country. Alolino, who only had two points, more than made up for the lack of points as he grabbed nine boards and nine assists.

For UST, Kevin Ferrer led the team with 14 points and 11 boards. However, the Smart Elite ambassador shot only 5/17 from the field. The NU wings also limited Ed Daquioag to just 9 points on 3/8 shooting. He only played a total of 24 minutes due to being in foul trouble during the start of the game.

NU’s next outing will be up against the Adamson Falcons, 4pm on Sept. 23 while UST takes on Ateneo 4pm on Sept. 26. Both games will be played at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:
NU (55) – Aroga 19, Alejandro 9, Abatayo 8, Diputado 7, Neypes 6, Alolino 2, Salim 2, Javelona 2, Lastimosa 0, Celda 0, Javillonar 0, Tansingco 0.
UST (54) – Ferrer 14, Abdul 11, Daquioag 9, Lao 8, Lee 6, Vigil 3, Bonleon 3, Sheriff 0, Faundo 0, Subido 0, Huang 0.
Quarterscores: 17-17, 33-26, 41-43, 55-54

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