National University (NU) went on a furious fourth quarter run as it upset Far Eastern University (FEU), 87-84, keeping its Final Four hopes alive in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 80 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Trailing behind for most of the 40-minute match, the Bulldogs came through with a closing 23-5 rally as they completed the comeback victory to improve to a 5-8 win-loss record and stay in contention for the last semifinals slot.
“This is the dream. This is what I’m expecting from our players—their maturity,” said National U head coach Jamike Jarin, whose squad snapped a two-game losing slide.
“I’m happy right now because I saw the maturity. I saw the losses and the experience (we gained from those). I hope it’s not too late. I’m just very proud of all my players,” added NU’s first-year mentor.
Issa Gaye erupted with a huge double-double of 24 points and 11 rebounds, Jayjay Alejandro chalked 17 markers, pouring 11 of those in the pivotal fourth period, while Enzo Joson added 13 points to go with a crucial steal in the endgame.
Arvin Tolentino and Ron Dennison finished with 21 points apiece and a combined 14 rebounds but their solid outings went down the drain as the Tamaraws slid to 6-7.
FEU wasted away a 15-point lead in the final quarter and 18 three-pointers throughout the game.
Waxing hot from beyond the arc, the Tamaraws had a blazing start as Tolentino and Dennison knocked down three triples apiece while Hubert Cani added another long bomb for an early 27-19 spread.
FEU sustained its fiery shooting from the outside, with Tolentino firing the team’s fourth triple in the second period to post a 43-31 advantage.
The Bulldogs sparked a 26-14 exchange bridging the middle quarters for their first taste of the lead, 60-59.
Wendell Comboy drained a trey as the Tamaraws closed out the third frame with a 10-0 blast to restore their advantage, 72-64.
The host squad then scored seven unanswered points in the payoff period, resulting in its largest lead, 79-64, with 8:18 left.
But NU employed tight defense down the stretch, limiting FEU to just five points for the remaining of the contest while notching 23 markers of their own.
With the Tamaraws trailing behind 84-86 and badly needing a basket, Joson stole an inbound pass and converted one of his free throws for an 87-84 cushion with 13.5 seconds remaining.
The scoreline would eventually be the final count as Tolentino muffed a potential game-tying triple as time expired.
NU (87)—Gaye 24, Alejandro 17, Joson 13, Mosqueda 8, Tibayan 7, Abatayo 6, Aquino 5, Diputado 4, Yu 2, Cauilan 1, Bartlett 0, Morido 0, Salem 0, Rangel 0, Lastimosa 0.
FEU (84)—Tolentino 21, Dennison 21, Comboy 16, Cani 14, Inigo 3, Tuffin 3, Ebona 2, Escoto 2, Orizu 2, Parker 0, Trinidad 0.
Quarterscores: 19-27; 39-47; 64-72; 87-84