MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers trailed nearly all the way but exploded in crunch time to rally past the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 77-71, in the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs led by 14 points in the second period and had a 10 point lead in the third quarter, but the Tigers scored 24 points in the fourth to overhaul the NU lead.
"Naka-tsamba na naman kami," said UST head coach Pido Jarencio in jest. "Malakas ang tsamba namin."
But Jarencio said it was his players' heart that willed them to victory.
"Mas malaki lang ang puso namin noong second half, kaya kami nanalo," said Jarencio. "May katapat din naman sila, puso, pride, palaban."
It was another come-from-behind victory for UST, as the Tigers also rallied from a double-digit deficit against the defending champions Ateneo last week.
Jeric Teng scored 21 points - 15 in the second quarter alone - and hauled down 11 rebounds while Karim Abdul had 11 points and 15 boards.
The Tigers proved to be the more steady team during crunch time, wherein they outscored the Bulldogs 9-2 in the final two minutes of the contest, with NU failing to convert a single field goal.
The Tigers were down 63-53 early in the fourth period before scoring six straight points to cut the lead to four, 59-63.
A three-pointer from Gelo Alolino briefly quieted the Tigers' rally, but they responded with three-straight trifectas - two from Teng and one from Kevin Ferrer - to take the lead, 68-66.
Bobby Ray Parks would drain a three-pointer of his own in the next NU possession to take back the lead, but it would turn out to be the Bulldogs' last field goal of the game.
Aljon Mariano scored a lay-up in transition, and Parks was called for goal-tending on a Clark Bautista lay-up, allowing the Tigers to go up 72-69.
Jeric Fortuna wrapped up the victory with a three-point play with 1:05 to go, sending the UST crowd into a frenzy.
"We were in the same situation against Ateneo," Teng said. "Down din kami... Pero nakuha naman namin 'yung tinuturo ni Coach Pido. Down or lamang, fight lang kami."
Jarencio jokingly said that the early tip-off time - the game started at 11 a.m. instead of 2 p.m. - affected his players.
"Alas onse, bakbakan na, kaya kailangang gumising ng maaga, eh maraming komplikasyon," he said. "Pag dating ng 12 noon, oras na namin 'yun. Uminit na ‘yung diesel, hindi na mapigilan."
The Bulldogs raced to a 29-15 lead early in the second period, but Teng came alive to bring the Tigers back in the game.
He scored 15 points in the second quarter, including a difficult leaning jumper at the halftime buzzer, to keep the Tigers within striking distance, 36-41.
Parks led all scorers with 25 points, 20 of which came in the first half. He also had four rebounds and four assists.
But Parks, last season's MVP, committed several mistakes in the fourth quarter, including the aforementioned goaltend, as well as a turnover with 1:30 to go that led to Fortuna's three-point play.
NU suffered their second straight defeat after getting blown out by the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
The Bulldogs were once again clobbered on the boards, 54-39, and surrendered 30 offensive rebounds to the Tigers. They also committed 15 turnovers that led to 21 points for UST.
UST 77 - Teng 21, Abdul 11, Mariano 10, Fortuna 10, Ferrer 8, Bautista 7, Afuang 6, Lo 4, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Daquioag 0
NU 71 - Parks 25, Mbe 13, Alolino 13, Javillonar 11, Villamor 5, Rosario 3, Ignacio 1, Rono 0, Neypes 0, Khobuntin 0, De Guzman 0, Betayene 0
Quarter scores: 15-21, 36-41, 53-60, 77-71