Monday, November 23, 2015
UST Tigers seal UAAP title clash with FEU; dethrones NU Bulldogs 64-55 (HIGHLIGHTS VIDEO)
Not many gave University of Santo Tomas a chance to get this far just a few months back. And the Tigers intend to keep proving the doubters wrong.
“This time I think we’re really ripe, we’re more mature,” said UST big man Karim Abdul. “This year is different.”
True to their word, the Tigers made it a quick finish by intimidating National University with their explosive stand from the get-go and shackling the defending champion’s big guns for a 64-55 victory in the Final Four of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament Sunday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The victory sealed the championship showdown between UST and Far Eastern University, which claimed the first title berth a day earlier by nipping Ateneo, 76-74, on a Mac Belo buzzer-beater.
Game 1 of the best-of-three championship series is set on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. at Mall of Asia Arena.
Aside from talking about game strategies that dethroned the Bulldogs, the top-seeded Tigers liked emphasizing their teamwork by referring to their squad as family.
“Sobrang gigil kami mag-champion (We all want to win the championship),” said UST main man Kevin Ferrer. “Maglalaro kami buong pamilya (Our whole family will play with us).”
Just like they did all season, it wasn’t just veterans Ferrer and Abdul who did all the work in the semifinal showdown that saw the Tigers erecting a double-digit edge right in the opening minutes, 15-2, and building leads as high as 16 points, 48-32.
Louie Vigil helped spark the Tigers’ early run and finished with a near triple-double of 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Ferrer added 11 points and seven boards.
“The players really showed their heart,” said UST coach Bong dela Cruz. “We wanted to finish it in one game. We played good defense from the start to the end.”
While the Tigers had everything going, the Bulldogs couldn’t quite tell what hit them, just when it seemed like they found their stride late in the elimination round.
“What a time to play our worst game,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano after his fourth-ranked Bulldogs failed to duplicate last year’s Cinderella title run.
Top NU guard Gelo Alolino shot a woeful 1-of-17 from the field as the rest of the Bulldogs also struggled with a paltry 26.8 shooting percentage.
“We did not get it done on both ends—offense and defense,” said Altamirano. “I was shocked to see them play like that. Add to that UST playing good defense. Nevertheless, I’m proud of the boys. All season, there was never a lack of effort. There was always will to win.”
The Tigers likewise think it’s their desire that will fuel them in their title duel versus the Tamaraws.
“It’s my last year and we’ll do everything to get that championship,” said Ferrer. “We’ll prepare well, we’ll give them a good fight.”
In their only previous Finals meeting, FEU defeated UST, 100-89, on Oct. 18, 1979 at Loyola Center (now Blue Eagle gym) in Quezon City.
UST 64—Vigil 19, Ferrrer 11, Sheriff 10, Daquioag 8, Abdul 6, Bonleon 5, Lee 5, Faundo 0, Lao 0.
NU 55—Javelona 17, Alejandro 8, Diputado 7, Aroga 7, Alolino 6, Javillonar 5, Neypes 3, Celda 2, Abatayo 0, Morido 0, Salim 0.
Quarters: 15-12, 30-20, 44-32, 64-55