MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- It was another game and another comeback for the University of Santo Tomas (UST) as the Growling Tigers overhauled a double-digit deficit to beat the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 58-57, in overtime of their second round encounter in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament.
After being down by as much as 17 points, the Tigers slowly chipped away at the Bulldogs’ lead in a highly physical second half, coming as close as three points numerous times.
But the Bulldogs always seemed to have an answer for every Tiger rally, even as their offense dried up in the fourth quarter.
After a free throw from Jeric Teng made it a three-point game, 45-42, Jeoffrey Javillonar made NU’s first field goal of the fourth quarter with a lay-up with less than two minutes to go.
The momentum swung between the two squads late in the fourth period. Two free throws from Bobby Ray Parks made it a three-point game again, 51-48, with just 11 seconds to go.
Jeric Fortuna provided the heroics for the Tigers as he drained a cold-blooded three-pointer at the buzzer over the outstretched arms of NU’s Gelo Alolino, igniting a celebration from the UST crowd.
In overtime, Aljon Mariano gave the Tigers their first lead of the ballgame when he scored to make it 53-51.
But the Bulldogs responded with a 6-1 burst to lead 57-54 with two minutes to go. To make matters worse for the Tigers, big man Karim Abdul fouled out after contributing 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Jeric Teng, who was still clearly struggling from his knee injury, gave the Tigers some hope when he converted a fast-break lay-up off a pass from Fortuna. The Tigers then got two defensive stops when Alolino shot an airball and Parks committed a traveling infraction.
Mariano, who had kept the Tigers within striking distance throughout the game, put his team ahead for the final time with another lay-up off an isolation play.
Parks could not get a shot off in time for the Bulldogs as the buzzer sounded.
Mariano finished with a career-high 22 points, while Parks had 15 points and 11 boards for the Bulldogs. But the reigning MVP had a miserable shooting night and had to earn his points at the free throw line.
The Tigers actually got off to a good start, zooming to a 9-2 lead as they took advantage of the Bulldogs’ turnovers.
But the Bulldogs responded with a 24-2 run bridging the first and second quarters, eventually taking a 26-11 lead.
The Tigers looked confounded by the physical NU defense in the second quarter, as they scored only three points in the period and finished the first half trailing 14-31.
UST started getting back in the game early in the third period when they embarked on a 10-2 run to cut the NU lead to single digits, 24-33.
The Tigers improved to 7-2 in the league standings, good for a share of second place. The Bulldogs dropped out of the top four with a 5-4 record.
UST 58 - Mariano 22, Abdul 10, Teng 8, Fortuna 8, Bautista 8, Ferrer 2, Vigil 0, Pe 0, Lo 0, Afuang 0
NU 57 - Parks 15, Mbe 10, De Guzman 8, Rosario 6, Labing-isa 5, Javillonar 4, Betayene 3, Rono 2, Neypes 2, Alolino 2, Villamor 0, Singh 0
Quarter scores: 11-16, 14-31, 32-42, 51-51, 58-57 (OT)