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Growling Tigers to tighten grip at No. 2

University of Santo Tomas’ Soulemane Chabi Yo shoots a jumper against RJ Minerva of National University during a Season 82 UAAP men’s basketball game at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City. PHOTO BY ROGER RAÑADA

University of Santo Tomas (UST) seeks to strengthen its grip of the second spot when it collides with Adamson University today in Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The Growling Tigers take on the Soaring Falcons at 12:30 p.m., after University of the Philippines (UP) duels National University (NU) at 10:30 a.m. and before De La Salle University battles Far Eastern University (FEU) at 4 p.m.

UST (3-1) seized the solo second following a gutsy 87-74 overtime victory over NU behind rookie forward Rhenz Abando’s late heroics last Sunday.

Contrastingly, Adamson (2-2) dropped to No. 4 after a stinging 82-83 overtime defeat to UP at the same day.

Still, head coach Aldin Ayo sees his Tigers facing a tough task against counterpart Franz Pumaren’s Falcons.

“Even if they changed some players, nothing has changed with Adamson because their system is in place,” said Ayo, who lost to Pumaren twice in his first year at España last season.

Abando, who fired 13 of his 21 points in the endgame of UST’s previous game, is expected to take charge anew along with consistent Beninese center Soulemane Chabi Yo and freshman Sherwin Concepcion.

Adamson will bank on one-and-done guard Val Chauca, rookie AP Manlapaz and Congolese big man Lenda Douanga.

Meanwhile, last season’s runner-up UP (2-1) guns for its first streak versus the upset-hungry NU (0-3).

Coach Bo Perasol’s Fighting Maroons will take on mentor Jamike Jarin’s Bulldogs who were always so close to winning in their first three outings.

NU fell in overtime against Adamson (83-84), suffered another one-point loss to La Salle (82-83), then crashed in extra period again versus UST (74-87) that saw the Bulldogs taste a 70-68 lead on Enzo Joson’s layup with 6.9 seconds left in the regulation.

“They could’ve been easily 3-0 right now. They’re a very dangerous and well-coached team. It’s just that they haven’t had the luck in the last three games,” said Perasol.

UP will lean on star recruit Kobe Paras and reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, who hit the game-winning free throws in their latest win, while NU will rely on sophomores Dave Ildefonso and John Lloyd Clemente.

In the third game, La Salle (1-2) and FEU (1-2) clash for the chance to get back on the winning track.

The Green Archers absorbed a narrow 88-89 setback to University of the East behind Rey Suerte’s dagger triple while the Tamaraws got tamed by defending champion Ateneo De Manila University, 46-63, last Saturday.

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