Zachy Huang and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers proved that their first round win over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws was not a fluke, taking a 78-70 triumph, Sunday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
With three straight wins, UST even their slate to 4-4 while dropping FEU to 5-3.
Besides this, the Growling Tigers completed a season sweep of the Tamaraws as they also won their first round encounter last September 12, 76-74. The last time UST did this was back in Season 78.
“We’re grateful na kung ano yung pinaghandaan namin ay lumalabas. But it’s still a long way to go. We’re going to keep working hard,” said first-year UST head coach Aldin Ayo.
Moreover, Aldin Ayo continued his mastery over the Racela brothers, as the Tamaraws have yet to best an Ayo-mentored team. Ayo has also matched the two-year win-total of Boy Sablan in two years, needing just seven games to do it.
And it was the seniors of the Growling Tigers who sparked the breakaway in the final frame.
Back-to-back triples by Marvin Lee ignited a 16-6 run, with Huang and Renzo Subido scoring at will as well. The troika handed UST a game-high 11-point lead, 65-54, with 3:57 left.
Huang, whose previous high was 13 points in a 69-74 loss to UP back in November 6, 2016, scored a game-high 20 points on 5-for-8 shooting from the field and 10-of-13 shooting from the stripe. He also grabbed six rebounds.
“Motivated lang talaga kami. Last season, hirap kami manalo,” said Huang.
The backcourt tandem of Lee and Subido had 17 and 14 points, respectively.
The Tamaraws, who at one point were 0-of-11 from downtown, only knocked down their first triple with 3:36 left in the game courtesy of Arvin Tolentino.
Frustrations mounted in the FEU camp as they could not mount a comeback against UST. Olsen Racela was called for a technical foul with 2:01 left, while Tolentino, who is returning from a one-game suspension, was called for a disqualifying foul after hitting Huang in the head with 15.9 seconds remaining.
Tolentino, who will most likely be slapped with another suspension, had 11 points.
Besides the three seniors, two rookies shone once again for UST.
Germy Mahinay – who played for almost the entire fourth quarter as Enrique Caunan sprained his right ankle after a chasedown block of Alex Stockton with six minutes left in the third frame – had a career-high 10 points and eight rebounds. Super rookie CJ Cansino gobbled down 12 rebounds.
Richard Escoto led FEU with 12 points. Prince Orizu, who had 25 points in their first showdown, was limited to just eight points but still managed to grab 12 rebounds.
UST 78 – Huang 20, Lee 17, Subido 14, Mahinay 10, Cansino 5, Bataller 4, Caunan 2, Marcos 2, Bonleon 2, Cosejo 2, Zamora 0, Agustin 0
FEU 70 – Escoto 12, Tolentino 11, Orizu 8, Stockton 8, Gonzales 7, Cani 6, Ebona 6, Comboy 5, Parker 3, Inigo 2, Bayquin 2, Tuffin 0
Quarterscores: 23-19, 37-33, 49-49, 78-70