FEU's Mac Belo (R) drives to the basket against UE's Moustapha Arafat (L). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws recovered from a flat start to overcome the University of the East (UE), 73-63, and hand the Red Warriors their second consecutive loss of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament.
The Tamaraws were down by 13 points in the first period after struggling against UE's full court press, but they cleaned up their act in the second period and in the second half, and eventually took complete control of the game in the final period.
"There were no adjustments," said FEU coach Nash Racela after the game. "We just did the things that we were doing in practice. Of course, we had some preparation, and we talked about the press of UE."
"Ang sabi lang namin is, UE is a pressing team, and we acknowledge that, and we actually want that so we can attack the basket," added the coach, who heaped praise on his players for maintaining their composure.
Mac Belo scored 21 points, many of which came against the defense of UE import Moustapha Arafat, and keyed a crucial run in the second period that allowed the Tamaraws to claw their way back into the contest after falling behind early.
The Tamaraws took the lead for good late in the third quarter, when veteran forward Carl Bryan Cruz drilled a corner triple off a pass from Mike Tolomia that put them ahead, 50-49. Tolomia, for good measure, added a floater at the buzzer to give the Tams a 52-49 lead entering the final period.
FEU would take their first double-digit lead of the game when Carl Cruz scored off a teammate's miss to make it 69-59 with 2:57 to go in the final quarter, and the Tamaraws cruised to victory from that point on.
It was the Tamaraws' second consecutive victory, giving them a 3-1 record. Meanwhile, the Warriors, after opening the season with back-to-back wins over cellar-dwellers University of the Philippines and Adamson University, have now lost two straight games to fall to 2-2.
Racela said they were able to gain some lessons from UE's previous loss to defending champions La Salle, where they saw how the Green Archers kept their composure despite committing 36 turnovers and trailing almost all the way.
"Ang target lang namin was not to beat La Salle, because they had 36 turnovers and we had 31 turnovers," Racela said. "So long as you don't lose your composure. Kasi sabi namin before the game, UE was leading almost the whole game, and La Salle, being a champion team, grabe 'yung composure nila."
"If there was something we would learn from that game, it's that - kahit anong mangyari, ang importante is we still make the right decisions in the game," he added.
The Red Warriors were the better team in the first period, using their press to harass the Tamaraws into 11 turnovers in the period alone. They led by as much as 13 points in the frame, 22-9, as UE unleashed a 20-1 run that occurred with star guard Roi Sumang sitting on the bench.
A triple by Tolomia to beat the first quarter buzzer allowed the Tams to enter the second period down by 10, 12-22, and they soon cut the deficit to just four points, 20-24, after Belo sparked an 8-0 blast.
The Warriors still led throughout the second period, but the Tamaraws were within striking distance all throughout as Belo showed off his ability to break his man off the dribble and get to the basket. UE's play also deteriorated, with Sumang at one point miscalculating on a pass that led to an eight-second backcourt violation.
A lay-up by Belo with less than a minute to go allowed the Tamaraws to go into halftime down by just one point, 31-32.
Scoring picked up in the third period, with the two squads exchanging baskets and leads halfway through the frame. A 6-0 FEU run allowed them to take the lead, 41-38, but it was answered by a Paul Varilla triple that allowed UE to tie the game.
It was the Tamaraws who took the lead after three quarters thanks to Cruz and Tolomia, but the Red Warriors were able to stay within striking distance thanks to baskets from center Charles Mammie and back-up guard Gino Jumao-as.
FEU would soon pull away, however, as UE's offense began to flag. Sumang, who scored his first points of the contest in the final period, tried to bring his team back by repeatedly driving into the lane and fishing for fouls, but the Red Warriors were never able to threaten the Tamaraws again.
Belo continued his spectacular play this season as he led all scorers with 21 points, making nine of his 12 field goals. Anthony Hargrove had a double-double of 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Tolomia finished with 13 markers.
Varilla led UE with 12 points, and Bong Galanza added 11 points. But Sumang scored only seven points, and missed 12 of his 13 field goal attempts.
FEU finished the game with a 48% shooting clip, while holding the Red Warriors to only 36%. The Tamaraws, after turning the ball over 11 times in the opening frame, finished with 31 miscues. UE scored 23 points off FEU's turnovers, but it was not enough as they stumbled to their second straight defeat.
FEU 73 - Belo 21, Hargrove 14, Tolomia 13, Cruz 7, Inigo 7, Pogoy 5, Jose 4, Dennison 2, Escoto 0, Denila 0.
UE 63 - Varilla 12, Galanza 11, Javier 8, Arafat 8, Sumang 7, Mammie 6, Alberto 5, Jumao-as 4, De Leon 2, Olayon 0.
Quarter-scoring: 12-22, 31-32, 52-49, 73-63.