FAR Eastern University (FEU) banked on its championship experience on Saturday to pull-off a 75-70 victory over National University (NU) at the start of the finals of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) Season 77 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Swingman Mike Tolomia scored 15 points along with six rebounds and three assists despite committing seven turnovers in Game 1 of the best-of-three finals series. FEU is now one game away from winning its first title since October 2005 when it beat De La Salle University in the finals.
A win by the Tamaraws in Game 2 will earn them their 20th UAAP men’s basketball title.
“I told them to play the proper defense in the second half and reminded them to do the right things,” Racela told reporters during the post game interview. “At least, we won the first game which is very important and now we’ll have to treat Game 2 a do-or-die game.”
Forward Roger Pogoy posted 14 points while Archie Iñigo had 12 points, including three triples, and seven rebounds. Mac Belo, Anthony Hargrove and Jose Raymar added eight points apiece for the Tamaraws.
Although the Tamaraws struggled in the first half, the wards of head coach Nash Racela refused to bow down and bounced back in the second half and the third quarter, outscoring the Bulldogs, 25-12. The Tamaraws regained the lead, 60-50, before the payoff frame begins.
The Tamaraws were down by 18-30 in the second quarter but were able to close the gap, 38-35, before the end of the first half.
The Bulldogs of coach Eric Altamirano narrowed the distance to 65-69 behind their 5-0 blitz highlighted by Gelo Alolino’s lay-up.
Pogoy scored a basket to stretch the lead to 71-65 for FEU with 1:17 to go in the fourth quarter.
Alolino, who had 14 points with seven rebounds, trimmed down the gap to 70-73, but NU’s Glenn Khobuntin missed a triple in the dying second.
Iñigo sealed the game for FEU with two free throws.
The 6’7 Cameroonian Alfred Aroga posted 17 points and eight rebounds for the Bulldogs.