MANILA, Philippines -- The University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers relied on their outside shooting to squeeze out a thrilling 59-58 win against vastly improved National University (NU) Bulldogs on Thursday in the UAAP Season 73 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Growling Tigers hit 5 triples in the payoff period to overcome a sluggish start and register their 3rd win in 5 games.
Trailing by two, 49-47, midway in the 4th period, an unlikely hero emerged from UST.
Carmelo Afuang scored 9 of the next 12 points of the Tigers to grab the momentum going into the final 2 minutes of the see-saw battle.
The 6-foot-3 Afuang, one of UST’s “undersized” big men, drilled in a surprise three-pointer to cap off his heroics, padding its lead to 6 points, 59-53, with 2:19 left.
NU still had a chance to save the game, which it controlled for the most part, but could not execute properly against UST’s tenacious defense.
A broken play led to Emmanuel Mbe’s basket that closed the gap, 59-58, with 4.8 seconds remaining. But the Tigers escaped with the win as the Bulldogs were 3 fouls short from getting to the penalty situation.
“Akala ko pigsa na lang ulit ang puputok eh. Buti pumutok din nung fourth quarter. Simple lang, a win is a win kahit ang sakit sa mata ang panalong ito,” UST coach Pido Jarencio said afterwards.
UST played horrendously in the first half, shooting 1 of 8 from the three-point region. But despite that, the Tigers only trailed by 3 points, 25-22, at the break.
The Tigers wound up making 7 of 19 from beyond the arc. Prior to this game, UST sank a record back-to-back 16 three-pointers in a win against UP and a loss to Adamson.
Clark Bautista shot 4 of 6 from the three-point zone to score 14 points to cover up for his backcourt partner Jeric Fortuna, who only made 6 points or 2-of-7 three-point shooting clip.
Fortuna added 5 rebounds, 9 assists and 2 steals despite playing with a knee injury sustained in a collision with teammate Vince Tinte in practice.
UST Fil-Am slotman Chris Camus also shone as he logged in 11 points, 7 rebounds and 3 steals and played resolute defense against NU’s Cameroonian rookie Emmanuel Mbe, who was held down to 10 points.
“Sabi ko kay Chris (Camus), makipagpalitan ka na ng mukha diyan kay (Emmanuel) Mbe,” said Jarencio, who never fails to amuse the press with his post-game antics.
Jewel Ponferrada led NU with 12 points and 8 rebounds while Melvin Baloran had 11 points. Their top gunner Kokoy Hermosisima was also clamped down by Jeric Teng’s defense. Hermosisima managed to only score 6 points on 2-of-8 shooting from the field.
The Bulldogs crashed to 2-3 in the team standings.
UST 59 – Afuang 15, Bautista 14, Camus 11, Teng 6, Fortuna 6, Pe 4, Mariano 3, Wong 0, Tinte 0, Mamaril 0, Lo 0, Daquioag 0, Aytona 0.
NU 58 - Ponferrada 12, Baloran 11, Mbe 10, Terso 8, Hermosisima 6, Ludovice 4, Tungcul 3, Khobuntin 2, Javillonar 2, Ignacio 0, Eriobu 0, Singh 0, Malanday 0, Magat 0.
Quarterscores: 13-10, 22-25, 38-41, 59-58.