UST's Karim Abdul attempts a shot against NU's Alred Aroga. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- The National University (NU) Bulldogs started their post-Ray Parks era on a winning note, routing the sluggish University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 59-40, in their first game of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum
Point guard Gelo Alolino led the way with 13 points, but it was a team effort for the Bulldogs who are now playing without Parks and Emmanuel Mbe.
"It's a new season, and we've moved on," said Coach Eric Altamirano. "The players understand na wala na si Ray, so sinabi ko sa kanila na kailagan, pagtulungan natin ito."
"It must be a collective effort, and everybody must give their share," he added.
After a slow start that saw both teams grope for form in the first quarter, the Bulldogs found their rhythm in the third quarter with forward Troy Rosario leading the way.
A lay-up by Rosario gave the Bulldogs a double-digit lead, 33-23, with 6:31 to go in the third period, and it turned into a 37-23 lead as NU went on a 12-2 run.
The Bulldogs poured it on from there, eventually leading by as much as 21 points twice in final period with players like Alolino, Glenn Khobuntin and Kyle Neypes getting on the board.
"I think it was more of a defensive game... I think we played sound defense, and they didn't shoot well," said Altamirano.
The Tigers struggled mightily on both ends of the floor, oftentimes allowing NU open shots and offensive rebounds, while at the same time flubbing even easy shots. They also failed to take care of the ball, turning it over 26 times, which led to 11 points for NU.
NU's bench also completely outplayed their UST counterparts, 24-5.
"I think our second unit did a good job there. They made stops, and they were able to run so we were able to get some points in transition," said Altamirano.
The veteran players expected to lead the team - Kevin Ferrer, Aljon Mariano and Karim Abdul - misfired repeatedly from the field, and wound up combining for only 26 points on eight-of-37 shooting. Ferrer, in particular, struggled; he had only one field goal and turned the ball over seven times.
The victory allowed NU to gain a measure of revenge against UST, the team that eliminated them in the Final Four in the past two seasons.
UST's 40-point output was also the lowest of any team in the UAAP since September 8, 2011, when NU also held La Salle to only 40 points in a 56-40 win.
"Honestly, I didn't even expect to win with a big margin," said Altamirano. "We were not thinking about the output of UST."
As a team, the Tigers only made 24% of their field goals, including only two of their 17 attempts from beyond the arc. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs made 47% of their two-point field goal attempts and 27% of their triples.
NU 59 - Alolino 13, Rosario 9, Diputado 8, Aroga 8, Khobuntin 6, Alejandro 5, Neypes 4, Celda 2, Perez 2, Javelona 1, Salim 1, Betayene 0, Atangan 0, Cauilan 0, Tansingco 0, Yu 0.
UST 40 - Abdul 11, Mariano 10, Sheriff 7, Ferrer 5, Subido 3, Daquioag 2, Lo 2, Basibas 0, Dela Cruz 0, Faundo 0, Gayosa 0, Lao 0, ?Macasaet 0, Pe 0, Sablan 0, Vigil 0.
Quarter-scoring: 14-9, 25-21, 47-31, 59-40