NU's Angelo Alolino goes to the basket against UE's Charles Mammie. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Roi Sumang missed a potential game-tying lay-up and the National University (NU) Bulldogs escaped with a 57-55 victory over the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors to maintain their lead in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Sumang, who memorably hit a game-winning three-pointer against the Bulldogs last season, saw his circus lay-up clang off the side of the rim and NU center Alfred Aroga controlled the rebound as the buzzer sounded.
"We knew that they were gonna go to Sumang," said NU head coach Eric Altamirano after the game. "We don't want to give him the three (pointer); at least we could give the two."
"We wanted to contain him really well and force him to one side, where we know there will be help coming, and true enough Alfred was there to help (Nico) Javelon on the drive," he added.
The Red Warriors led halfway through the final period with Sumang and center Charles Mammie on the bench, but thanks to their work on the offensive boards, the Bulldogs were able to score nine unanswered points to take a 57-54 lead with a little over two minutes left.
A Gelo Alolino three-pointer gave NU the lead for good, 55-54, with 3:29 to go, then foreign big man Alfred Aroga padded their lead as he scored on a lay-up with 2:19 left.
A split at the line by Sumang allowed NU to make it a two-point game, 57-55, with still over a minute left, and the Bulldogs did not help themselves as Alolino missed a point blank lay-up that could have extended their lead, then Aroga committed a three-second violation with 17.1 seconds to go.
The Warriors put the ball in Sumang's hands for their final possession, even though the guard had only entered the final quarter at the 3:20 mark and had sat on the bench for most of the frame.
Sumang was able to get a good look at the basket, but his lay-up hit iron and the former Mythical Five member could only cover his face with his hands as he failed to keep the Warriors from suffering their third consecutive loss.
"It was a tightly contested ball game," noted Altamirano. "It could have gone either way. I just wanted to commend the boys for their resiliency. they just refused to lose."
With the victory, NU now has a 5-1 win-loss record, the best in the league. Three players scored in double-digits for the Bulldogs, led by Aroga who had 18 points and 15 rebounds, while Glenn Khobuntin had 14 points, and Troy Rosario added 11 markers.
As in their previous two games, the Red Warriors took control early, building a double-digit lead in the first period after their press forced the Bulldogs to take bad shots.
NU responded in the second quarter, forcing UE to commit turnovers of their own and attacking on the break. A lay-up by Aroga gave the Bulldogs a 21-20 lead, but Sumang answered with a jumper on the other end to reclaim the advantage.
"In the early part of the game, we forced the issue," admitted Altamirano. "We lost our discipline."
There were six lead changes in the first half, but it was UE who ended the second quarter on a strong note s they scored four points in the last 30 seconds to enter halftime leading 28-23. Sumang, who struggled with only seven points in their previous game, had 11 points in the first two quarters.
The Bulldogs played better in the third period, with Aroga and veteran forward Khobuntin attacking the basket against the defense of UE's Mammie, while reserve Tristan Perez provided a spark off the bench.
"Come third quarter, we got our acts together," said Altamirano. "We tried to get back to where we're really strong at, which is defense. It came down to stops at the end."
The Warriors waxed hot from the perimeter in the first five minutes of the final period, with Dan Alberto and Bong Galanza each hitting three-pointers that allowed UE to build a 54-48 lead. But with Mammie on the bench, UE was unable to corral vital rebounds that allowed NU to extend possessions that they used to get to the line.
Galanza and Sumang each scored 16 points for the Red Warriors, who forced NU to commit 19 turnovers -- a far cry from the 36 and 31 miscues that they forced from La Salle and Far Eastern University, respectively.
NU 57 - Aroga 18, Khobuntin 14, Rosario 11, Alolino 6, Perez 4, Javelon 2, Diputado 2, Neypes 0, Alejandro 0, Atangan 0, Betayene 0, Celda 0
UE 55 - Galanza 16, Sumang 16, Javier 9, Alberto 8, Palma 4, Guiang 2, Varilla 0, Arafat 0, Mammie 0, De leon 0, Jumao-as 0
Quarter-scoring: 12-20, 23-28, 42-36, 57-55