Even without coach Jamike Jarin, the National University Bulldogs recovered from a horrible first half, pouncing on the hapless University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 91-83, Sunday afternoon at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan City.
Jarin was suspended for the game after being slapped with two technical fouls during NU’s loss to the Ateneo Blue Eagles last Wednesday. PBA legend Danny Ildefonso called the shots for the Bulldogs. And this win was a much-needed victory for Ildefonso and the Bulldogs as it brought them to just a game behind of the fourth-running FEU Tamaraws.
“Yun yung sinabi ko sa kanila, na ibigay nila yung best nila para kay coach Jamike at kailangan na kailangan namin manalo ngayon,” said Ildefonso, “Malaki pa ang chance namin makapasok sa Final Four at huwag naman sana manalo sa amin yung UST.”
Issa Gaye and Matt Salem led the Bulldogs with 22 points each, with the former swatting away six shots, while the latter hauled down 10 boards.
“Thank you sa mga players ko dahil actually may instruction kami pero sila pa rin naman ang maglalaro. Nagpapasalamat ako sa coaching staff din namin, sa mga assistant namin, and sa mga players namin. Thank you kay God, kasi sabi ko nga sa kanila, wala pa naman akong experience sa coaching, pero prayer ko kay God na sabi ko ikaw na ang bahala sa game,” added the two-time PBA MVP.
The two proved pivotal in the third frame that saw NU break away from UST.
UST started on a good note, even leading by as much as seven points. But Gaye and Salem shot the lights out in the third frame, highlighted by a Salem and-one lay-up over Steve Akomo. NU took a game-high 14 point lead, 77-63 with 7:58 left in the game.
J-Jay Alejandro once again flirted with a triple-double with 10 points, nine rebounds, and eight assists.
Behind the troika of Enric Caunan, Oliver de Guzman, and Marvin Lee, the Growling Tigers were able to cut the lead to as low as five points, 81-86, with 3:37 left. But once again, UST could not devise a plan, and saw their Final Four hopes doomed.
Besides going down to 0-10, UST will not make the Final Four for the second year in a row.
Akomo paced UST with 16 points and 12 rebounds, while Lee and De Guzman chipped in 15 and 14 points respectively.
NU look to build on this win when they face the Adamson University Soaring Falcons on Sunday, October 29, at 4:00pm. UST, on the other hand, hope to salvage what is left of their season when they take on the same team on Wednesday, October 25, at 4:00pm. Both games will be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
NU 91 – Gaye 22, Salem 22, Alejandro 10, Abatayo 10, Joson 7, Mosqueda 5, Bartlett 5, Yu 5, Diputado 3, Aquino 2, Tibayan 0, Morido 0, Cauilan 0
UST 83 – Akomo 16, Lee 15, De Guzman 14, Caunan 11, Faundo 8, Sta. Ana 6, Huang 6, Escalambre 3, Basibas 2, Soriano 2, Romero 0, Macasaet 0
Quarterscores: 24-21, 40-43, 69-61, 91-83