The University of Santo Tomas have uncanny depth in the wings.
Even with Kevin Ferrer serving foul trouble all throughout the game, wing players Louis Vigil, Ed Daquioag, and Kyle Suarez supplied a wave of three-pointers to rally back and eventually torch the De La Salle University Green Archers, 77-61, Wednesday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Growling Tigers could not seem to find the bucket in the opening stanza. In the opening seven minutes of the game and with Kevin Ferrer on the sideline due to foul trouble, the Tigers relied on grizzled veteran Karim Abdul to provide buckets for the team. However, Jeron Teng and transferee Joshua Torralba slashed through the lanes in scoring six-apiece in giving the Taft cagers an 18-12 lead to end the opening quarter.
The second unit of the Green Archers bombed the Tigers with a 12-4 blast in the first five minutes of the second. The UST offensive woes continued when Prince Rivero displayed his inside craft, while Fililipino-American Julian Sargent slashed through the lanes with reckless abandon in scoring six points. After a banking three-pointer, Ferrer received his third foul after pushing Torralba to the sidelines. With Ferrer on the bench, Abdul sparked a game-altering 12-0 blast in the last 3:38 before halftime. Vigil continued the blast with a three-pointer and two excellent drives to cut the lead to just two, 33-31, to enter halftime.
Instead of their zone defense, the Growling Tigers utilized a 2-2-1 full court press that confused the Green-and-White squad. After extending the lead to four with 7:57 remaining, the Juno Sauler-mentored squad failed to put any shot in the bucket. With the success of their defense, the offense came as UP-transferee Kyle Suarez knocked down two triples that gave UST the lead for the first time 39-38. After a charge call on Jeron Teng that injured the left knee of Suarez, Vigil and Bonleon made it rain further to extend the lead to 49-38. A three by Torralba momentarily halted the España surge but another three pointer by Vigil and Marvin Lee, their sixth and seventh threes of UST this quarter, extended the UST lead to 60-46 to enter the final frame.
Disappointment and frustration was visible with the Taft cagers as they entered the fourth quarter even in matching the small lineup of UST. The returning Ferrer continued to open the floodgates in scoring 10 straight points that extended the Growling Tigers’ lead to 19. With the lead out of reach in the final three minutes of the game and with their defense floundering, the Green Archers resulted to a hack-a-Sheriff tactic that prolonged the inevitable. Sheriff was able to make 2/6 from the stripe. Free throws by Ferrer and Bonleon eventually sealed the game 77-61.
Coach Bong dela Cruz was proud that his Tigers were able to connect from downtown but more than that, he emphasized that defense was the key to this victory. “Yung mga shooters tumama na tira nila pero defense talaga.” Moreover, the UST rally occurred when Ferrer was on the bench. “Gumawa sila paraan to execute. Inisip nila para sa family [UST] namin.”
For Daquioag, who tallied 11 points, grabbed six boards and dished out three dimes in the game, the mindset of the team was defense first. “Sabi namin mag-enjoy lang sa depensa, dadali lang opensa.”
Smart Elite ambassador Kevin Ferrer, who continued to topscore for the Tigers with 17 points on 5/7 shooting from the field and 4/4 from the charity stripe in 16 minutes of action, said that he was happy that his teammates stepped up for him.
For the Archers, Jeron Teng was the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with 13 points and 9 boards. However, he was just 5/11 from the field and 3/6 from the line. Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero had 10 points and six boards in the losing cause.
As a team, the Archers shot a horrendous 33% from the field compared to 42.19% for the victors. Moreover, even in having more free throw attempts with 29, the Taft-based squad was only able to convert on 13. Finally, the Growling Tigers converted on 11 three-pointers in the game.
The UST Growling Tigers (5-1) will have its final assignment for the first round as they face the UE Red Warriors (2-4) on Wednesday, October 7 while the DLSU Green Archers (3-3) will face their rivals, Ateneo Blue Eagles (4-2), on Sunday, October 4. The former will be played at 2:00pm at the SMART Araneta Coliseum while the latter is set at 4:00pm at the Mall of Asia Arena.
UST (77) – Ferrer 17, Abdul 13, Daquioag 11, Vigil 10, Suarez 9, Lee 7, Bonleon 6, Sheriff 6, Abdurasad 0, Arana 0, Faundo 0, Garrido 0, Huang 0, Lao 0, Subido 0
DLSU (69) – Teng 13, Torralba 12, Rivero 10, Torres 8, Caracut 5, Perkins 5, Sargent 4, Muyang 2, Navarro 2, Tratter 0
Quarters: 12-18, 31-33, 60-46, 77-61.
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