MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) -- The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws escaped with a win over the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons, 73-70, to earn a share of the lead in the men’s basketball tournament of the UAAP Season 75 Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Terrence Romeo set a new career high with 24 points on top of nine rebounds and eight assists for another sterling all-around game.
The Tamaraws are now tied at the top of the UAAP standings with the defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles. Both teams have 5-1 win-loss records.
“Buti na lang okay si Terrence, kasi bad game si RR,” said FEU head coach Bert Flores, referring to former UAAP MVP RR Garcia who has struggled with his game for much of the season.
“Maganda 'yung depense (ng UP),” Flores added. “Magaling ang game plan nila.”
It looked as if the Tamaraws were going to cruise to victory early in the fourth quarter, when they built a 15-point lead, 68-53, after a Cris Tolomia three-pointer with 7:58 to go.
But that would turn out to be the Tamaraws’ last field goal of the ball game, while the Maroons suddenly came alive to turn what looked like a rout into another close contest.
The Maroons scored five straight points to make it a 10-point game, 58-68, before two free throws by Romeo briefly stopped the UP rally.
UP once again cut into the lead, getting as close as four points, 66-70, after two free throws by Mark Lopez.
But the game took a controversial turn in the next UP possession: Lopez got close to the basket for a shot attempt but was blocked by FEU center Anthony Hargrove. Replays clearly showed that the ball touched the backboard before getting blocked, however.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, the referee missed the goal-tending violation and the play was not reviewed. Romeo made one-of-two free throws in the next FEU possession to extend their lead to five.
UP gained new life right in their next possession when Alvin Padilla drained a three-pointer to make it a two-point game, 69-71, with two minutes remaining.
UP’s Mike Gamboa and Romeo both missed jump shots, and Lopez was able to fish a foul against FEU rookie Mark Belo.
He would make only one of two from the line, however, allowing Romeo to ice the game with two free throws.
Romeo scored the final five points for the Tamaraws, all of which came from the free throw line. The former Baby Tamaraw has been having a remarkable season, showing an improved shot selection and doing a better job of getting his teammates involved in their offense.
“Focus lang,” said Romeo. “Kasi si Lord naman ang nagbibigay ng lakas sa akin.”
The Tamaraws bounced back from their first loss of the season against the National University Bulldogs. It was another close finish for them, after having won their first three games with a combined winning margin of six points.
The Maroons, meanwhile, remain scoreless in five outings in Season 75.