FEU's Alejandrino Inigo (R) drives to the basket against Adamson's William Polican (L). Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws bucked a poor start to overcome the Adamson Falcons, 88-73, to become the first team to clinch a Final Four berth in the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Tamaraws out-scored the Falcons, 50-29, in the second half, including 28-13 in the fourth quarter, to finally break the game open after their hot shooting from beyond the arc allowed Adamson to take a surprising lead after the first half and up until the first few minutes of the third period.
With their victory, the Tamaraws hiked their record 10-2. They have now clinched a spot in the Final Four, and will need two more wins to ensure that they will have a twice-to-beat advantage in the semi-finals.
"'Yun talaga 'yung goal namin, 'yung top two," said FEU assistant coach Eric Gonzales, who is still calling the shots with head coach Nash Racela in Spain with the national team.
Despite the huge winning margin, it was not a straightforward victory for the league-leading Tamaraws who trailed by double-digits early in the first quarter. The Falcons waxed hot from beyond the arc, and took a surprising 15-3 lead before the Tams chipped away at the deficit behind Mike Tolomia and Achie Inigo.
"Nag-gamble ako ng first quarter," admitted Gonzales. "Make or break, so kasalanan ko 'yun, call ko 'yun. Nag-usap naman kami ni Coach Nash about it."
"Nag-adjust naman kami kaagad at naka-catch up kami, pero siyempre binigayn mo ng confidence 'yung kalaban."
Inigo led the way for the Tamaraws with 18 points, while Tolomia added 17. Mac Belo also had 17 points to go along with 12 rebounds.
Huge fourth quarter for FEU
Adamson's strong play continued in the second quarter, and they were able to take a 44-40 lead at halftime. The Falcons, however, cooled down in the third quarter, while the Tamaraws got scoring from a variety of sources to steadily chip away at the lead.
FEU took the lead for good with seven seconds to go in the third quarter with a 62-60 lead entering the final frame.
Adamson remained within striking distance early in the final period, with a jumper by Don Trollano putting them within two points, 65-67, with still 7:31 remaining.
A three-pointer by Inigo touched off a 9-2 FEU run, however, capped off by a Belo putback that allowed the Tamaraws to finally take complete control of the ball game, 76-67, with under four minutes remaining.
The Falcons, who played so well offensively in the opening half, simply faded in the face of FEU's improved defense in the final period, and the Tamaraws would go on to cruise to victory and stay on top of the league standings.
FEU's huge second half was keyed by their work on the boards, as they out-rebounded Adamson 29-15 in the third and fourth quarters, including a 14-5 advantage on the offensive glass. As a team, FEU scored 12 second chance points in the second half.
Trollano had a game-high 20 points, while Jansen Rios scored 16 and Ryan Monteclaro added 12 points. Chris Garcia was the only other Falcon in double digits as he finished with 10 markers.
Great start for Adamson
Adamson took a surprising 44-40 lead at the half thanks to their hot shooting from the perimeter. The Falcons made 17 of their 30 field goals in the first two quarters, including six of their 10 attempts from beyond the arc.
Trollano and Monteclaro each hit a triple in the final 30 seconds of the game to give the Falcons the lead.
It would have been a bigger lead for Adamson if not for Tolomia, who drained a remarkable shot from way beyond the halfcourt with nine-tenths of a second to go before the halftime buzzer.
Adamson's offense dipped in the second half, however, as they would make only 12 of 30 field goals. Their defense and rebounding also flagged considerably.
FEU has now won seven straight games since losing to Ateneo in the first round. Adamson slumped to its 12th consecutive defeat.
FEU 90 - Inigo 18, Tolomia 17, Belo 17, Pogoy 12, Cruz 9, Hargrove 7, Jose 7, Escoto 2, Lee Yu 1, Tamsi 0, Denila 0, Delfinado 0, Ugsang 0.
ADU 73 - Trollano 20, Rios 16, Monteclaro 2, Garcia 10, Barrera 6, Polican 5, Aquino 2, Pedrosa 2, Inigo 0, Villanueva 0, Ochea 0, Baytan 0, Nalos 0.
Quarter-scoring: 18-19, 40-44, 62-60, 90-73