MANILA, Philippines – The Growling Tigers displayed better decision-making on Sunday afternoon, when University of Santo Tomas (UST) seized a thrilling 87-74 overtime triumph over National University (NU) in the UAAP Season 82 tournament.
Three days after coach Aldin Ayo lamented their lapses in a 71-70 defeat to defending champion Ateneo de Manila University, his young UST team showed poise in rallying from a late deficit before taking over in the extra period to keep NU winless.
"This time, mas maganda. Kasi, we were able to convert and we were able to execute our plays na pang-end game na," said Ayo.
Against the Blue Eagles, UST endured a scoring drought late in the fourth quarter after giving up the go-ahead bucket to Ange Kouame. Shots by Renzo Subido and Soulemane Chabi Yo were well-defended, and the Tigers eventually had no choice but to foul the Blue Eagles late.
They were much better against NU, with Rhenz Abando catching fire late to help the Tigers recover from a 63-58 deficit with just over two minutes left. A transition bucket by Enzo Joson put the Bulldogs ahead, 70-68, with 6 seconds to go, but UST rookie Mark Nonoy found Chabi Yo wide open underneath the basket for the game-tying lay-up.
Abando took over in the extra period, and NU had no response especially when Dave Ildefonso fouled out with under 3 minutes to go.
Ayo noted that while his players' decision-making improved, it was still a mixed bag.
"In terms of competing, wala akong masabi sa decision-making ng mga bata because they are really going to compete," he said.
"But in terms of game situations, 'yung decision-making nila, well they really have to learn our mistakes today," he added.
Ayo pointed out a sequence with 12 seconds left, after Zach Huang tied the game at 68 with a split at the line. They retained possession, thanks to an offensive rebound by Brent Paraiso, but Nonoy hoisted up an ill-advised three-pointer that went nowhere, giving the ball back to NU.
"(A) lapse on his part," Ayo said. "'Yung overtime na, lamang ata kami ng 8 points, less than one minute, nakuha ni Zach 'yung bola sa corner, tinira pa ni Zach."
"So those things na mga situations na dapat na-handle namin ng maayos in terms of making the right decisions," he added.
Nonoy made up for his error by assisting on Chabi Yo's overtime-forcing bucket, and for that he earned praise from his coach.
"Well, ugali ni Mark 'yan eh. He is that competitive. Kung mapapansin niyo, hindi 'to takot tumira ng mga big shots," he said.
"Kaya nga 'yung last 12 seconds na 'yun, na supposedly dapat hinatak niya, 'yung tinira niya pa? Dapat hindi na nangyari 'yun eh. Pero in terms of ano gagawin niya sa dulo, well he can make that decision," he added.
For Ayo, the whole game only showed that UST still has a long way to go in UAAP Season 82, even as they improved to 3-1 to take solo second in the league standings.
"Nasa learning process pa kami," he said. "Kailangan pa naming matuto ng matuto."
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