THE UST Growling Tigers rallied from a 14-point deficit to sweep their season series against the FEU Tamaraws, 85-76, in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Karim Abdul posted 23 points and five rebounds, Kevin Ferrer had 21 points and six boards, while Mario Bonleon and Louie Vigil scored 13 points apiece for UST, who moved a win away from securing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
UST trailed, 22-36, in the second quarter before Ferrer and Abdul led a huge 23-9 run, tying the game at 45 entering halftime.
A three-pointer from Bonleon gave the Tigers their biggest lead at 78-65, before the Tamaraws cut the deficit to five, 81-76, with less than two minutes remaining.
Bonleon and Abdul scored UST’s next four points to put the game away for good.
Despite being beaten on the boards, 34-42, the Tigers’ defense forced the Tamaraws to commit 22 turnovers while only committing nine themselves.
“Dumepensa lang kami. Tumatama kasi yung mga three-points nila (FEU). Sabi ko lang i-execute lang natin yung defense. We kept on defending, and sabi ko sa kanila na enjoy playing defense,” Tigers head coach Bong Dela Cruz told the media after the game.
Abdul, who top-scored for UST in last game’s loss to UE, said that his “thinking side” helped him against the Tamaraws’ huge frontline.
“They (FEU) have stronger big men, with Orizu up front, and I just thought that I had to move faster if I wanted to get around them,” Abdul told the Tomasian Cable Television.
FEU’s Mike Tolomia and Mark Belo, who scored 17 and 12 points respectively, combined to shoot just 9/26 from the field. Mark Tamsi also scored 15 points on five three-pointers.
The Tigers (10-3) will look to clinch the twice-to-beat berth against the Adamson Falcons (3-10) on Wednesday, 2 PM, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
UST  - Abdul 23, Ferrer 21, Bonleon 13, Vigil 13, Daquioag 11, Lee 4, Faundo 0, Sheriff 0, Lao 0, Suarez 0.
FEU  - Tolomia 17, Tamsi 15, Belo 12, Pogoy 8, Ru. Escoto 6, Arong 5, Jose 4, Orizu 4, Trinidad 3, Inigo 2, Dennison 0, Ebona 0, Ri. Escoto 0.