MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Far Eastern University (FEU) put a stop to their recent struggles in the UAAP, and in the process, booted out University of the East (UE) from the race to the Season 80 Final Four.
Thanks in part to a solid performance from first-year point guard Jasper Parker, the Tamaraws pulled away from the Red Warriors en route to a 79-63 victory on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum.
It was a much-needed win for the Tamaraws, who entered the game having lost four of their last five games, including back-to-back contests. The victory hiked their record to 6-6 with just two games left in their elimination round schedule.
They also handed the Red Warriors their 10th loss of the season, effectively ousting UE from playoff contention. UE dropped to 3-10 heading into Sunday's contest against University of Santo Tomas.
"We really needed this win," said FEU coach Olsen Racela. "Actually, we need more wins in our remaining games. But I think this is a good confidence-booster for us going into the home stretch."
"I'm just proud of the way we played in the second half," he added. "They didn't have a good first half, but the second half was much better."
Parker scored 18 points, his most in the UAAP, while also adding eight assists in a well-rounded performance. Prince Orizu added 14 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks, while birthday boy Arvin Tolentino fired 10 points off the bench.
Despite the struggles of scoring machine Alvin Pasaol, UE still managed to hang tough against the Tamaraws and even led 33-29 at the half. FEU took control late in the third as Parker engineered a 6-0 run that turned a 43-all deadlock to a 49-43 advantage.
But the Red Warriors pounced on his exit from the game with 1:38 left to play in the third period. Charities from Philip Manalang and Wil Bartolome, along with a runner from Mark Olayon, ensured that both teams headed into the final quarter knotted at 49.
A lay-up by Bartolome off a pick-and-roll with Olayon gave UE its final lead of the game, 51-49, but it was all FEU from then on. Hubert Cani and Tolentino knocked down back-to-back threes, and an Orizu bucket made it 62-55 with five minutes left.
UE last threatened at 57-62 off a smooth jumper by Olayon. Unfortunately for the Red Warriors, they got hammered on the rebounding glass in the ensuing possessions: Orizu collared the board off a Parker miss for a lay-up, and Ron Dennison did the same play later. A four-point play by Tolentino capped an 8-0 blast that gave FEU a double-digit lead, 70-57, with just 3:27 left.
Parker then put the finishing touches on the victory with a pair of three points in the final two minutes of the ball game.
"I'm proud of the guys for stepping up in the second half," said Parker, who made five of his 14 shots in the game.
"We didn't have a great first half, but in the second half, there was ball movement and better effort on defense," added Orizu. "It was a collective effort as a team."
Pasaol, the best local scorer in the league, labored his way to 18 points on 19 shots, while also grabbing seven rebounds and committing eight of his team's 15 turnovers. Olayon finished with 14 points and six assists.
While neither team shot well from the field (UE at 31.94% and FEU at 38.89%), the Tamaraws were helped immensely by their 11 three-pointers. They also had a 55-42 advantage on the boards, including 20 offensive rebounds that led to 19 second chance points.
FEU 79 – Parker 18, Orizu 14, Tolentino 10, Dennison 9, Trinidad 9, Cani 8, Tuffin 4, Escoto 3, Comboy 2, Bayquin 2, Inigo 0, Ebona 0, Ramirez 0
UE 63 – Pasaol 18, Olayon 14, Maloles 8, Acuno 8, Manalang 7, Bartolome 4, Conner 4, Derige 0, Varilla 0, Cullar 0, Toribio 0, Abanto 0
Quarter scores: 18-22, 29-33, 49-49, 79-63
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