MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) -- The National University (NU) Bulldogs rallied from a double-digit deficit to give the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws their first loss of the UAAP Season 75, 61-57, Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum.
“That was a breakthrough for us,” said NU head coach Eric Altamirano. “The key was really our composure.”
The Tamaraws came into the game undefeated with a 4-0 record, but their first three wins came by a combined winning margin of six points. Their penchant for close contents finally came back to haunt them as they failed to execute in the final minutes of the game.
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, rebounded from a two-game losing streak, after succumbing to the defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles and the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers.
“I think that’s one of the things that is lacking in our team, since our team is young. I know we’ve been through a lot of tests, and I think these tests will make us a better and more mature team,” Altamirano said.
Last season’s MVP Bobby Ray Parks struggled from the field but was solid on the defensive end while ably setting up his teammates all night. He finished with 17 points, six rebounds and seven assists.
The Tamaraws led by as much as 13 points in the second quarter, 29-16, and came into halftime with a 30-24 lead.
Terrence Romeo provided much of the scoring for the Tams as he had 11 points in the first half alone.
FEU’s strong play continued in the third period, as they led by double digits, 45-33, with 3:47 to go in the quarter thanks to a lay-up by Arvie Bringas.
But Emmanuel Mbe and Parks led the Bulldogs on a 10-0 run, five points of which came from the free throw line, to make it a 45-43 game. A Gryann Mendoza lay-up briefly stemmed the Bulldogs’ rally, but Dennice Villamor hit a three-pointer with 14 seconds to go to make it 47-46 going into the final canto.
In the final quarter, the Bulldogs took the lead for the first time since the first period when Parks drained a difficult fadeaway jumpshot – his first field goal of the contest – to make it 52-50. John Rosario added a lay-up to make it 54-50 with 3:32 to go.
But RR Garcia, who also struggled from the field all game, drained a three-pointer, and Mark Bringas converted a lay-up to put the Tams back in front, 55-54.
Parks gave the Bulldogs the lead again with a three-point play with 1:36 to go, but Romeo tied the ball game with a jumper, making it 57-all.
The Bulldogs would take the lead for good on Parks’ free throw with a minute to go.
“This afternoon, we showed a lot of character,” said Altamirano. “We were behind by more than 10, and I just commend the boys for their resiliency to come back.”
The Tamaraws actually had a chance to tie the ball game, but Romeo, who was well-guared by Parks, fumbled the last possession and threw up a three-pointer that fell well short of the rim.
“Every game is a tough game, and we definitely have to move along after a loss, and even after a win, we forget that game,” said Parks.
“You’re only as good as your last game so I had to motivate the team,” he added.
Mbe and Rosario both had 12 points for the Bulldogs. Meanwhile, Romeo finished with 18 points, but no other Tamaraw scored in double figures.