The University of Santo Tomas (UST) will be gunning for its fourth straight win when it battles defending champion National University (NU) today in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The UST-NU game is scheduled at 4 p.m. while Ateneo de Manila University takes on University of the East (UE) at 2 p.m.
The Growling Tigers hold the solo top spot with a clean 3-0 mark. They beat Adamson University (70-64), tournament favorite Far Eastern University (72-71) and erstwhile co-leader University of the Philippines (67-59).
Ateneo, UP, FEU and UE are in a four-way tie for the No. 2 spot with 2-1 each while NU and Adamson are still winless in three games.
Ed Daquioag proved to be one of UST’s scoring machines this season after averaging 24.33 points in their first three outings. He scored a career-high 28 points against Adamson, 27 against UP and 18 against FEU.
“Siguro mataas na ang [confidence]ko ngayon kasi isa na ako sa mga leaders ng team. Kailangan kong maging good example. I used to be one of the top defenders of the team before. But right now, we need to have some scorers so I just grabbed the opportunity given to me by coach Bong Dela Cruz.” said Daquioag,
Besides Daquioag, Kevin Ferrer, a member of the national team that won the Singapore Southeast Asian Games gold medal, is also a major factor. He averaged 17.6 points and 8.6 rebounds, so far.
Also expected to deliver for the Growling Tigers are Camero¬onian Karim Abdul, Sheak Sheriff and Louie Vigil.
“Last year pa lang si Ed [nakaplano]na sa akin na siya ang magdadala ng team together with Kevin [Ferrer] but unfortunately nagkaroon siya ng injury last season. This season healthy siya, I hope na maging healthy siya through out this season,” UST head coach Bong Dela Cruz said.
On the other hand, NU is aching to nail its first win.
Despite being down, Bulldogs mentor Eric Altamirano remained optimistic.
“We just need to move on. As long as we still have games to play, we still have hope. We just need to focus on our next game,” said Altamirano, whose Bulldogs suffered a painful 70-74 double overtime loss against the Blue Eagles in their last game.
Gelo Alolino and Alfred Aroga will be carrying the Bulldogs along with Kyle Neypes, Nico Javelona and Rodolfo Alejandro.