JOSE Rizal University’s vaunted defense again came to the fore as the Bombers edged out Perpetual Help, 64-59, on Monday night in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan.
Struggling on offense, the Bombers turned to their defense and proved steadier than the Altas down the stretch to pull through with their fourth win in five games.
“Struggling talaga kami sa opensa, pero pinag-igihan namin sa depensa,” said Bombers coach Vergel Meneses, whose team shot a woeful 37 percent from the field but still won as the Altas were even worse at 35 percent.
The victory forged another logjam at the top of the standings among JRU, San Sebastian and San Beda -- all with similar 4-1 (win-loss) records.
Alex Almario and Nate Matute emerged as the top scorers for the Bombers with 12 points each.
Matute’s output was a far cry from his league-leading 25.5 points per game average. The senior swingman, though, still iced the game after his two charities with eight seconds remaining.
“Marked man na siya,” Meneses said. “Sinabi ko na dagdagan niya arsenal niya.”
Staring at a 58-61 deficit, Perpetual’s Chris Elopre had the chance to cut the lead to one after he was fouled and sent to the free throw line with 16.2 seconds left.
But the point guard split his charities that led to a pair of free throws by Byron Villarias and Matute.
Villarias had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards for the Bombers, who bounced back from their blowout loss to the Stags last time.
The Altas, who dropped to 4-2, were led by Jet Vidal’s 20 markers.
JRU 64 – Almario 12, Matute 12, Villarias 10, Mabulac 8, Lopez 8, Carampil 4, Dela Paz 4, Monserat 4, Camasura 2, Diapera 0.
PERPETUAL 59 – Vidal 20, Thompson 12, Jolangcob 7, Elopre 5, Arboleda 5, Paulino 4, Babayemi 3, Alano 2, Omorogbe 1, Allen 0, Bitoy 0.
Quarterscores: 19-17; 29-30; 51-48; 64-59.