Sunday, 25 August 2013 10 Comments
The National University Bulldogs handed the UST Growling Tigers their third straight loss with a convincing 75-61 victory, Saturday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Going on a tear and blasting any team that crossed their path, the Bulldogs showed once more why they are every bit a championship contender.
“It was really a collective effort. One of the key things for this game was the bench. The bench stepped up,” remarked NU head coach Eric Altamirano during the post-game interview.
The Bulldogs made sure to gain the upper hand early in the game with a 17-14 lead at the end of the first period.
Momentum swung alternately all throughout the second period as well with NU having their noses ahead by three, 36-33, heading into intermission.
UST’s team captain Jeric Teng finally made his return after being out for the better part of the first round due to an injury he sustained, ironically, during the first meeting of UST and NU. But the renewed hope didn’t last very long as Teng succumbed to cramping hamstring in the second canto.
After that it seemed like the entire gold gallery of the Coliseum held its breath and finally heaved a sigh of relief when Teng was spotted returning to the bench in the second half. Though he did not check back in to the game.
The Bulldogs pounced on the depleted Tigers who had trouble converting even open looks. NU slowly pulled away in middle of the third courtesy of treys and fastbreak plays by Dennice Villamor who finished with 18 points.
However, Villamor wasn’t the sole hero of the day.
As it turned out, it wasn’t the starters who did all the damage. Coach Eric had his own “magic hugot” in his off-the-bench ward Robin Ro?o, who delivered the goods on a silver platter.
Playing 19 minutes of action and topscoring with 19 points on five-of-six shooting from downtown, Ro?o proved that stars can come from the unlikeliest of sources.
“Nag-stick kami sa game plan ng mga coaches. Always lang ako ready pagdating sa opensa pero first option talaga yung depensa,” said an elated Roño to the press.
Coach Eric also added his own words of praise, “He’s (Roño) actually one of our stoppers. But for this game he provided us with his three-point shots.”
The Bulldogs never looked back after going into the payoff period with a comfortable 56-44 lead.
As a team who has been branded as one whose Achilles heel is closing out games, NU came through today and in their previous victories as well.
In a game where two teams were supposedly evenly matched, the final score wasn’t the only lopsided number on the stat sheet.
9, 20, 9, 25. Those are the magic numbers for the Bulldogs in this game.
Nine was the number of treys they drained the entire game. UST could only swish in three.
20 was NU’s number of dishes to teammates. This particular statistic showed just how much this team has matured since last season. They no longer relied on Rayray Parks to bail them out. They’ve built a solid foundation of trust on each other that’s a lot tougher to break.
As a result of that, too, they turned the ball over only nine times all throughout. The Tigers had 14 turnovers.
Finally, 25 was the total number of points the Bulldogs labored for from all their running. They converted 25 points out of 14 fastbreak attempts. There was no way that UST could match that with only five fastbreak attempts resulting to only eight markers.
With that, the inspired Bulldogs claimed their fourth straight victory and closed in on the top spot behind idle FEU.
“We’re happy that we have a streak going but we cannot be contented, trabaho pa rin kami. We have to work hard. Mayroong sense of urgency. We cannot overlook anybody,” Coach Eric commented on the team’s present mindset.
He also noted the intangibles that have led NU to play better as a unit and, consequently, win important games.
“I think if you notice we’ve been limiting the opponents to a very low output. So I think it really boils down to our defense. Our defense really creates shots for us. I think we do not want to deviate from that,” he said.
As for the Tigers, they are slowly beginning to realize that leadership is the ammunition they need to climb back from their rut.
“Ang tunay na storya diyan, nawala si Jeric (Teng) nawala kami,” admitted a dejected UST head coach Pido Jarencio after the game.
“Hindi madala ng ibang players eh. Maski anong turo ko, maski ano gawin namin sa practice, pag dating dito nag-iiba. Ewan ko nga ba’t ganoon. Yung leadership ang nawala.”
Rayray Parks once said during the preseason that for his team to get a serious shot at the title, their timing must be pristine. He admitted that at the time, they weren’t peaking yet. Now, though, in the midst of a second round war zone, the Bulldogs are looking like they’d planned all of this to the tiniest detail and they intend to reach their prime when it matters most.
NU (75): Roño 19, Villamor 18, Parks 10, Alolino 10, Khobuntin 9, Mbe 4, Javillonar 3, Perez 2, Rosario 0, Porter 0, Neypes 0, Labing-isa 0, Javelona 0, Alejandro 0
UST (61): Abdul 18, Ferrer 11, Mariano 9, Daquioag 9, Lo 5, Bautista 5, Teng 2, Sheriff 2, Tan 0, Pe 0, Lao 0
17-14, 36-33, 56-44, 75-61