UST's Kevin Ferrer attempts a shot over UP's defense. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – The University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers spent the past week focusing on their shooting during practice following their slim victory over the Adamson Falcons.
"After nung game namin ng Adamson, puro shooting kami. One week straight na puro shooting kami every practice," UST swingman Louie Vigil revealed.
The intensive practice paid off as the Tigers recovered from an early deficit to defeat the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons, 73-57, in their UAAP Season 77 game on Saturday.
"'Yung kalaban namin, UP, more on zone (defense) sila kasi parang iniisip nila na wala kaming shooters," said Vigil, who scored 17 points in the game.
"Binigyan kami ng confidence ni coach (Bong dela Cruz) na tumira sa labas," he added.
With UST's shooters finally finding their mark, center Karim Abdul was given more freedom to operate in the paint, and he scored 18 points to go along with eight rebounds in the game, making five of his eight field goals.
"The problem we had in the last game (against Adamson) was that the shooters weren't making their shots," Abdul observed. "So the offense was really low, they weren't going out because they knew we weren't making our shots."
"Today, because we were aggressive, the defense had to go higher, and I was really able to play down low. So the shooters did a good job today," he added.
The Tigers were still in trouble in the first half after UP led by as much as 11 points and looked to be on their way to an unexpected victory.
"Medyo flat nga kami noong first half," acknowledged UST veteran Aljon Mariano. "Medyo wala kaming defense, tsaka nag-connect din 'yung outside shots ng UP, kaya mahirap silang depensahan ng first half."
UP, however, would score only 18 points in the second half, including only seven points in the final period as UST, at one stretch, scored 20 unanswered points.
"'Yung shooting namin ng first three quarters, hindi nag-click," said coach dela Cruz. "Tinyaga lang namin because of our practice. We practiced hard going into this game, so nag pay-off noong fourth quarter."
UST now has a 3-1 record, but Vigil said the Tigers must not be satisfied.
"Umpisa pa lang ito. We have a goal na makapasok ulit sa Finals, kaya araw-araw pa rin, hard work pa rin," he said.