Friday, October 3, 2014
UAAP 77 FINALS Preview: FEU Tamaraws vs. NU Bulldogs
History was made at the Araneta Coliseum on October 1 when the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws and the National University (NU) Bulldogs forged a best-of-three showdown for the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball crown. (read NU defeats Ateneo story here) (read FEU dethrones La Salle story here)
It was the first time in the Final Four era that neither one of traditional powerhouses Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University made it to the Finals.
"It's the best thing that ever happened to the UAAP, having FEU and NU in the Finals," Tamaraws coach Nash Racela declared once their match-up was set.
Here's how FEU and NU stack up against each other:
ROAD TO THE FINALS:
Both FEU and NU faced difficult roads to the Finals, and both squads overcame tough challenges to get there.
FEU tied with defending champion La Salle at the end of the elimination round, thus pitting the two squads in a virtual best-of-three series with the winner advancing to the Finals.
Heading into Game 1 – which served as a playoff game for the second seed and the twice-to-beat advantage – the Tams arguably held an edge as they beat the Green Archers in both of their elimination round games.
They continued that mastery of La Salle in their September 21 game, winning 65-60 behind a strong effort from Mike Tolomia to move to within one win of advancing to the Finals.
La Salle struck back, routing FEU, 94-73, to keep their title defense alive and force a do-or-die game. In the sudden death, it was FEU who ended up on top, beating the defending champs 67-64 thanks to a dramatic buzzer-beating three-pointer by Mac Belo.
NU, meanwhile, had to overcome a twice-to-beat disadvantage against top-seeded Ateneo in the Final Four. The Bulldogs, however, had beaten the Blue Eagles in both elimination round games and arguably matched up with them better than any other team in the league.
NU made great use of their advantages in the first game, taking a double-digit lead before having to hold on in the endgame for a 78-74 victory.
In the second game, it looked as though Ateneo had solved NU's defense, but point guard Gelo Alolino and center Alfred Aroga came to the rescue with huge plays in crunch time to lift the Bulldogs, 65-63.
ELIMINATION ROUND RESULTS:
Game 1: FEU 71, NU 62
In their first meeting, FEU squandered a 22-point first half lead but survived to beat NU. Veteran forward Carl Bryan Cruz led the way with a career-high 16-point effort for the Tams, while guard Achie Inigo stepped up to score 14 points.
Game 2: FEU 74, NU 70
Their second game of the season went to overtime, but again it was the Tamaraws who showed composure in crunch time. It was Cruz who stepped up anew for FEU, hitting big shots at the end of regulation and in the extension to lift the Tams.
WHAT THEY SAID:
"We will just do what we do. That's what I reminded the boys – that what got us to this point will get us to the next level. So 'yung mga ginagawa namin, we 'll just do what we do. Kung kailangan kami manalo with our defense, kung kailangan kami manalo with sharing the ball and being together, then we will do that." – NU head coach Eric Altamirano.
"Laging sinasabi ni Coach Eric na pagdating sa ganitong series, iba na, kakalimutan mo na 'yung nangyari before, and that's also how we think as a team. Kalimutan na natin 'yung nangyari before, regardless kung nanalo tayo or natalo tayo. What's really important is the game ahead of us, the series ahead of us." – FEU head coach Nash Racela.
SCHEDULE OF THE UAAP FINALS:
Game 1: October 4, Saturday, 3:00 pm (MOA Arena)
Game 2: October 8, Wednesday, 3:30 pm (Araneta Coliseum)
Game 3*: October 15, Wednesday, 3:30 pm (MOA Arena)