University of Santo Tomas (UST) banked on strong defense to dethrone National University (NU) 64-55 on Sunday in the other Final Four series of University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum.
Despite holding a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four as the No. 1 seed after the elimination round, the Growling Tigers refused to relax all-throughout the game and their hardnosed defense limited the Bulldogs to below 60 points.
“Our players gave their best and they played tough defense the rest of the way. They really wanted to go back to the Finals,” said UST mentor Bong Dela Cruz during the post game interview. “We need to study FEU (Far Eastern University) because they are a strong team.”
“We executed our one-on-one defense very well. I’m really happy with the way we performed.”
Guard Louie Vigil led the Growling Tigers with 19 points to go along with 11 rebounds and seven assists plus two steals, while Kevin Ferrer finished with 11 points plus seven rebounds, and playmaker Sheak Sheriff had 10 points plus five rebounds. “Good box out, good passing and we anticipated their plays,” said Vigil, who shot 7-of-16 shooting in the field. “We don’t like to play another game with NU that’s why we gave our best today. We are happy to reach the Finals again because this will be our last year,” said Ferrer.
Ed Daquioag added eight points and eight rebounds also for UST.
The last time the Growling Tigers reached the Finals was in 2013, but they lost to the De La Salle University Green Archers during that championship round.
UST controlled the early going of the match as they took an early 15-12 advantage in the first quarter before extending the lead to 30-20 at halftime. The leech-like defense of the Growling Tigers held off Gelo Alolino to a 0-of-7 shooting in the field in the first half.
The Growling Tigers also gained 11 points on the Bulldogs’ 12 turnovers in the first half. UST only committed seven turnovers in the first half.
Aside from Alolino, the 6’8 Aroga was also a non-factor in the first half registering only three points and three rebounds. Overall, NU shot an atrocious 8-of-27 in the field (29.63 %) while UST shot 14-of-45 (40%) in the field. UST outscored NU in the second period 15-8.
The defending champion struggled in the early part of second half and failed to overcome UST’s hardnosed defense that put them to a 32-44 deficit at the start of fourth period.
The Growling Tigers just milked the clock in the remaining minutes of fourth period to secure the win and arrange their best-of-three championship against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws starting Wednesday.
UST’s defense limited NU to only 26.87 percent overall shooting in the field. UST shot 37.70 percent overall on the other hand.
Nico Javelona scored 17 points plus seven rebounds to lead the Bulldogs.
FEU holds a total of 19 men’s basketball championship while UST has 18.
The last time they met in the finals was in 1979. FEU won over UST 100-89 at the Loyola Center on October 18, 1979.