THE University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers bared their fangs to post a bruising 81-79 come-from-behind victory over the La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Kevin Ferrer unloaded seven consecutive points as he led a 13-2 UST explosion, which turned a 60-66 deficit into a three-point 73-68 advantage with 7:08 to go in the game.
La Salle’s Prince Rivero scored on a pair of field goals inside the paint to tie the count at 73-all. But UST big man Karim Abdul imposed his will inside, scoring on back-to-back incursions just underneath the goal to power the Tigers to the scrambling victory.
With the victory, the Tigers (7 wins, 1 loss) stayed in a tie at the top of the standings with the Far Eastern University University Tamaraws (7-1). The Green Archers (4-4) dropped into a tie at third with the Ateneo De Manila Blue Eagles (4-4).
In the opening game, Far Eastern University relied on an early fourth-quarter explosion to subdue stubborn Ateneo De Manila, 66-61.
The Tamaraws scored seven unanswered points at the start of the payoff fourth period to break a close 47-47 deadlock and go on to post the the hard-earned victory over the Blue Eagles.
FEU’s Alfrancis Tamsi drilled a three-pointer, Achie Iñigo added a long jumper and Mac Belo converted two free throws as FEU vaulted ahead 54-47.
The Tamaraws posted their sixth consecutive victory to grab a share of the top spot with a 7-1 card.
UST’s Marvin Lee drilled back-to-back triples, the second bouncing on the ring three times before dropping in, followed by a power move inside the paint by Karim Abdul to cut the La Salle lead to just three points, 56-53, with 3:00 to go in the third period.
Teng took matters into his own hands as he scored a pair of jumpers to push La Salle to a a slim 66-59 lead after the third period.
Rivero, not particularly tall nor particularly quick, exploited the absence of UST defensive anchor Karim Abdul as he scored three consecutive baskets from inside the paint to push La Salle to a 28-23 lead early in the second period.
With Abdul continuing to warm his seat on the bench La Salle’s big men continued to pound the ball inside. Abu Tratter scored on a followup to push the Green Archers to a fat 10-point advantage, 42-32, late in the second quarter.
Josh Torralba converted three-of-three free throws as La Salle held on to a 45-37 advantage at halftime.
The Green Archers hung on to the coattails of big-time scorer Teng to post a slim 22-21 first quarter advantage.
Ateneo’s Kiefer Ravena, shadowed all game long by the burly Belo, was woeful from the field on 5-of-15 shooting but managed to finish with 15 points, five rebounds and three assists. Ateneo endured its third loss in their last four matches and now sport an even 4-4 card to start the second round.
For the Tamaraws Belo finished with 12 points. Russel Escoto added 10 points and six rebounds. RR Pogoy chipped in 10.
Despite the victory FEU coach Nash Racela was far from satisfied with the effort of his players as he added that his team still had a long way to go before they reach their potential.
“There is a lot to improve on I think especially on the defensive end. Hindi pa namin na-achieve ‘yung goal namin today,” said Racela.