The Far Eastern University Tamaraws relied on the depth of its lineup to beat the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 75-64, in Game One of the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball finals on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Tamaraws started strong and erected a big lead in the first half. These were as much as 14 points. The Growling Tigers caught up but a finishing 14-0 run in the endgame knocked the wind out of the sails of a rallying Tigers squad.
FEU can win the men’s basketball tournament with a win on Saturday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Tamaraws shot 51 percent from the field in the first half to post a big lead. But the Tigers were not about to give up. They were able to recover and even took the lead briefly, 62-61, halfway through the fourth quarter.
FEU came up with its own furious run sparked by Mac Belo and Mike Tolomia. Orizu had a follow-up slam before Tolomia connected on a lay-up that put FEU ahead, 71-62.
The win ended the edge of the Growling Tigers over the Tamaraws. UST won their two elimination-round encounters this season.
Pogoy had 15 points, 12 in the first, to lead another balanced scoring attack by FEU. Tolomia had 14 points while Belo had a double-double of 13 points and 13 rebounds for the Tamaraws. FEU outrebounded the Tigers, 56-32, and had more assists, 13-5.
FEU big man Russel Escoto had 12 points while Orizu added 10 points and nine rebounds. The two waxed hot in time to power the FEU breakaway late in the game.
FEU coach Nash Racela said defense was the key to victory.
“It’s because of our defense. They worked hard on defense at the start of the game and it showed today,” said Racela.
Karim Abdul had 19 points and nine rebounds, while Kevin Ferrer had 15 points for the Growling Tigers, who nearly pulled off another come-from-behind win.
FEU (75) — Pogoy 15, Tolomia 14, Belo 13, Ru. Escoto 12, Orizu 10, Tamsi 5, Jose 4, Arong 2, Dennison 0, Ri. Escoto 0, Inigo 0.
UST (64) — Abdul 19, Ferrer 15, Vigil 8, Bonleon 6, Sheriff 6, Lee 6, Daquioag 4, Faundo 0, Lao 0.
Quarter scores: 28-24; 47-34; 57-51; 75-64.