Michael Malonzo’s clutch baskets dragged National University towards a 73-68 victory over the RJ Abarrientos-powered Far Eastern University in the UAAP Season 84 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Saturday afternoon, at the closed-door SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With the game tied at 66-all and 1:05 left in the ballgame, NU’s Michael Malonzo successfully fished for a foul from FEU center Emman Ojoula and sunk his free throws to give the Bulldogs a 68-66 lead.
Malonzo sunk one more free throw as Tamaraws shooter Brandrey Bienes then missed from rainbow country in the next play. Malonzo was then fouled anew and he converted another set of free throws to provide NU a 71-66 cushion.
L-Jay Gonzales’ basket, though, provided hope for FEU at 71-68 with 21.6 seconds left. The Tamaraws then forced a turnover after a timeout, only for Royce Alforque to miss the three. Xyrus Torres then missed a three as John Lloyd Clemente sunk two free throws to seal the win for NU.
“At least yung veterans nag-step up na,” said NU coach Jeff Napa. “The past three games, yun yung missing link namin. Nag step-up yung veterans tapos sumama na yung mga rookies kaya nakuha namin yung panalo na to.”
Clemente led NU with 18 points, nine rebounds, and six assists followed by Malonzo’s 14 points and seven rebounds. Shaun Ildefonso had 13 points and six rebounds while Robert Minerva had nine points and eight rebounds.
“Nag-settle down na yung nasa kaliwa ko (Clemente),” added Napa. “We keep on reminding him wag niya hanapan ang tira niya. Luckily mgayon, nakinig na siya na hindi niya hinanap tira niya. Kusang dumadating sa kanya. Naging maganda yung turnaround para sa amin kase siya naging missing link namin for the past two games eh.”
The Bulldogs’ bench played a key role in this game with 40 points compared to the Tamaraws’ 11. NU also had 34 points in the paint versus FEU’s 24.
RJ Abarrientos had a monster game for the Tamaraws with 33 points, behind 8-out-of-15 shooting, and five rebounds. Toyaks Alforque followed suit with 13 points.
Both schools shall resume their respective campaigns on Tuesday at the SM MOA Arena. FEU (1-3) takes on University of the East at 4:00 PM while NU (2-2) takes on Ateneo de Manila University at 7:00 PM.
NU 73 – Clemente 18, Malonzo 14, Ildefonso 13, Minerva 9, Felicilda 7, Figueroa 5, Joson 4, Galinato 2, Tibayan 1, Gaye 0, Enriquez 0, Yu 0, Torres 0, Manansala 0, Mahinay 0.
FEU 68 – Abarrientos 33, Alforque 13, Gonzales 9, Bienes 4, Tempra 4, Ojoula 3, Sajonia 2, Torres 0, Coquia 0, Sleat 0, Li 0, Sandagon 0, Celza 0.
Quarterscores: 18-14, 33-32, 58-49, 73-68.