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UST fights off gallant National U stand

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Karim Abdul and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers have long marked this date, a day where they could avenge their only loss of the season so far.

In a matchup filled with high emotions, the league-leaders made the necessary end game stops to stave off a late fourth quarter National University Bulldog hijack, 65-57, to clinch a Final Four spot Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The defending champions started off with a defensive stand that limited the Growling Tigers to just four points in the opening half of the quarter. On the offensive end, Alfred Aroga and Gelo Alolino combined to score the first 11 points of the team. Slowly, the Growling Tigers were able to get their feets wet with Kevin Ferrer scoring seven points on two triples to lead the UST charge. In addition, the offensive dry spell of the Bulldogs came back with NU not scoring for the final 4 minutes and 31 seconds of the quarter. Marvin Lee was able to throw a buzzerbeating triple to give UST a 20-14 lead.

Raph Tansingco was able to end the NU drought with a layup but was answered right back with a Kent Lao three-pointer, his first of two in the quarter. After an exchange between Alolino and Abdul, Ferrre connected on a trifecta to halt the NU momentum. The Bulldogs missed their last six free throws to close the quarter. Two more triples by the Growling Tigers, by Lao and Lee, gave the Espana cagers a 35-23 lead.

The league-leaders continued its downpour in the third quarter with the Growling Tigers leading by 11, 46-35, with 3:04 remaining. Aroga, feeling the pressure to carry the offensive load of the team, drove recklessly in scoring four straight points to cut the UST lead to just six. However, a three by Vigil and an acrobatic layup by Daquioag gave UST an 11-point lead to enter the final frame.

After waiting for so long, the Bulldogs were finally able to muster a huge 8-0 rally to cut the lead to just three. Three-pointers by Javellona and Alolino sparked the rally while a fastbreak layup by the latter gathered cheers from the quaint NU crowd. Things also got heated during the rally as foreign student-athletes Karim Abdul and Alfred Aroga were given a warning for taunting. After a split from the stripe by Abdul, free throws by Alolino cut the lead to just two with 4:36 remaining. A costly turnover by Mario Bonleon led to a no-look pass by Tansingco to a wide-open Alolino for a three that gave the lead to National U, 55-54, with 4:07 to go.

It was short-lived however as Vigil converted on a layup over Alolino while a steal by Marvin Lee led to a Daquioag layup to regain the lead for the White-and-Gold side. The athletic guard answered the NU captain’s floater with a floater of his own. Moreover, the Growling Tigers made the defensive stops in the end that resulted to sorry misses for Javellona and Alolino to give UST its eighth win in nine games.

“Makabawi kami, yun yung battlecry namin,” UST head coach Bong dela Cruz said after the game. It was also the sentiment of Cameroonian student-athlete Karim Abdul. Even Smart Elite ambassador Kevin Ferrer added that, “Nung nalaman namin yung schedule, sabi namin babawi kami. Nag-double effort sa ensayo para sa game na ito.”

However, after the game, Abdul tried to exchange pleasantries with Aroga but the latter refused to shake the hand of the victor. “It’s a mental game between me and Alfred,” Abdul said. “In the court we are enemies but we are friends outside of it. I don’t know what happened,” a confused Abdul remarked about the incident.

Smart Elite ambassador Kevin Ferrer had a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Karim Abdul had 13 points as well while Daquioag added 10.

For the Bulldogs, Gelo Alolino led all scorers with 20 points n 50% shooting. He also had seven boards but had no assists. Alfred Aroga had a double-double as well with 14 points and 17 rebounds.

As a team, both teams shot horribly with UST shooting 32.79% while NU continued its struggle with a 30.77% shooting clip. The Growling Tigers though shot better from the foul stripe 73.91% compared to just 55% for the Bulldogs. Also, the UST bench continued to provide ample firepower for the Espana cagers in scoring a combined 21 points.

The UST Growling Tigers (8-1) will next face the Ateneo Blue Eagles (5-4) on Wednesday, October 21 while the NU Bulldogs (3-6) look to bounce back against the Adamson Soaring Falcons (1-8) on the same day. Both games will be played at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.

The Scores:
UST (65)– Abdul 13, Ferrer 13, Daquioag 10, Bonleon 8, Vigil 8, Lao 7, Lee 6, Faundo 0, Sheriff 0, Subido 0.
NU (57) – Alolino 20, Aroga 14, Alejandro 7, Javelona 6, Diputado 4, Celda 2, Salim 2, Tansingco 2, Abatayo 0, Javillona 0, Morido 0, Neypes 0.
Quarterscores: 20-14, 35-23, 51-40, 65-57.

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