In a rematch of the UAAP Season 77 Finals contenders, the FEU Tamaraws this time managed to notch a victory against the NU Bulldogs in a tight 60-58 score to end the Elite 8 round of the PCCL.
The reigning UAAP champions started the game clicking on all cylinders as majority of their 18 first quarter points were made on outside shots. The Bulldogs were plus nine from long distance in addition to Alfred Aroga’s consistent midrange jumpers. Aroga made his presence felt once again against the Tamaraws with his stellar rim protection and defensive hustle.
The Tamaraws responded with their own version of defensive pressure as they limited NU to 12 second quarter points and forced the Bulldogs to more contested shots. A Mac Belo floater late in the first half helped FEU enter halftime down by a single possession. Belo top-scored all players during the low-scoring first 20 minutes with six markers.
Entering the third, the Bulldogs were still dominant in the perimeter shooting department outscoring the Tamaraws, 18-7. FEU countered in the third period with nine quick points on four made baskets led by Mike Tolomia before NU called for the first timeout of the second half.
With all sorts of momentum, FEU blew the game wide open, scoring 13 in the first five minutes of the third period while the Bulldogs missed on some free-throws.
Down by as much as seven points in the third frame, the Bulldogs had a late-quarter rally to trim the deficit to a solitary point heading into the fourth.
Both teams showed sloppy starts to the last period that resulted in a corner triple by Carl Cruz for FEU. A flurry of exchanges between the top 2 UAAP Season 77 schools took place in the tightly contested fourth quarter.
Fielding in mostly bench players in the first part of the fourth, the game was deadlocked at 52 with five minutes left to play. FEU and NU then displayed an array of defensive stops in the ensuing possessions. The Tamaraws clung to a four-point cushion with only a minute to go. Fortunately for FEU, the Bulldogs missed their three-point attempts to inch closer.
With 21 ticks left on the clock and down by three, Aroga managed to steal the ball from the Tamaraws’ inbound and went coast-to-coast for a missed layup but was able to draw a foul. The reigning finals MVP split his free-throws. The Bulldogs had another crack at tying the game or taking the lead, but FEU’s defense stood tall in the final seconds.
Cruz top-scored FEU with 10 points and added four boards. Belo added eight points and three assists. Alejandro topped all scorers with 11 while Aroga had a near double-double with nine points and 10 rebounds. FEU outrebounded NU, 52-40 and had more assists, 11-9. NU had more free-throws in a losing effort, draining 11 more charity attempts.
Playing the last game in the Elite 8 round, this FEU victory brought the squad to a 2-2 record. However, the Tamaraws were eliminated from a battle-of-three affair against the University of San Carlos (3-1) due to the higher quotient achieved by University of Visayas (2-2). NU drops to the bottom of the Group A standings with a 1-3 win-loss slate.
The battle for third between the USC Warriors and the University of Visyas will take place at 2pm, still at the Ynares Gym to be followed by the first game of the best-of-three finals series between the first-time PCCL finalists San Beda Red Lions and the defending PCCL champions, De La Salle Green Archers at 4pm.
Quarter scores: 12-18, 28-30, 48-47, 60-58