MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) -- The University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers rallied from a double-digit deficit to stun the defending champions Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles, 71-70, in the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum Thursday.
Down by as much as 19 points in the second period, the Tigers roared all the way back in the second half to upset the four-time defending champions.
The Tigers struck in the third quarter, outscoring the Blue Eagles, 30-11, in the period to overhaul a 15-point halftime deficit.
It was the comebacking Aljon Mariano who sparked the Tigers’ comeback, scoring 13 points in the third period alone, part of a 21-point, 13-rebound effort.
“Siguro, the breaks of the game, sa amin naman napupunta. Down by 15, 17, points, ang players hindi nawalan ng loob. Bumalik at nanalo by one point, okay na ‘yun,” said UST head coach Pido Jarencio.
“’Di kami nawalan ng puso,” Mariano added.
Mariano gave UST their first taste of the lead with a fastbreak lay-up with only 27 seconds to go in the third period, 56-54.
Mariano missed all of Season 74 with an ACL injury, but came back with a vengeance in this game. He outscored the entire Ateneo team 13-11, in the third period.
In the fourth, it seemed as though the Tigers would cruise to victory when they led by seven points, 69-62, with a little over two minutes to go.
But the Eagles scored five straight points off a Juami Tiongson three-pointer and a Kiefer Ravena putback to make it a one-possession game.
Big man Karim Abdul preserved the victory for the Tigers when he scored on a difficult lay-up over Greg Slaughter with 10 seconds to go to make it 71-67.
Ateneo still had a chance when Tiongson drained another three-pointer with five seconds left, but UST was able to hold on for the one-point win.
“Naka-tsamba kami,” Jarencio later admitted. “Dumating din ‘yung araw sa wakas na nanalo sa Ateneo.”
It was UST’s first victory over the Blue Eagles since the first round of Season 70. They have lost 12 straight games to the Blue Eagles, including a loss in last season’s Final Four.
Teng added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Tigers, who bounced back from a heartbreaking loss to the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in their season opener. Abdul finished with 14 points.
Jarencio noted that he had a deep team this year, with all five players capable of contributing at the same time.
“Marami kaming pwedeng puntahan na players sa end game,” Jarencio said, but gave special mention to Mariano.
“Breakout game n’ya ito. Ine-expect ko namang puputok s’ya. Consistency lang throughout the season,” he said.
Ravena had 19 points and five rebounds for the Eagles, while Nico Salva added 17 points and eight boards.
The Eagles got off to a blazing start as they scored the first eight points of the game and quickly imposed their running game on the Tigers. The Eagles had a 16-2 advantage on the fastbreak in the first half, as well as a 10-0 advantage in bench points.
But they had no answer for Mariano in the third period and committed several turnovers in the second half which led to their collapse.
To make matters worse for the Blue Eagles, Slaughter found himself in foul trouble for most of the second half. The 7-footer only scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds as he found himself bothered by double teams throughout the game.
UST 71 - Mariano 21, Teng 16, Abdul 14, Fortuna 11, Ferrer 4, Bautista 3, Lo 2, Pe 0, Daquioag 0, Afuang 0
ADMU 70 - Ravena 19, Salva 17, Slaughter 9, Tiongson 8, Buenafe 5, Sumalinog 4, Elorde 3, Chua 3, Golla 2, Gonzaga 0, Erram0
Quarter scores: 12-27, 28-43, 58-54, 71-70