RICHARD Howell threw his weight around as Talk 'N Text tore apart a lackluster Barangay Ginebra side, 97-84, to advance to the PBA Commissioner’s Cup semifinals on Tuesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Returning from a one-game absence after sustaining a bruised right shoulder late in the eliminations, Howell came away with 41 points and 22 rebounds in leading Talk 'N Text to a 10th straight victory.
The one-sided victory also sent the eighth-seeded Gin Kings out of contention in an embarrassing performance that immediately drew criticism from fans on social networking sites.
With Howell dominating his match-up with the much-shorter Gabe Freeman, Ginebra finished a damned tournament with its seventh loss in 10 games overall.
The Texters hardly showed any rust after an 11-day break, scoring at will inside while breaking down Ginebra’s defense with its outside shooting that silenced the pro-Ginebra crowd inside the Big Dome.
“All the credit goes to the players for really coming out and wanting to win the game,” said Talk ‘N Text coach Norman Black.
Black felt the weeklong break of Howell worked well for the former North Carolina State standout, who fired 23 points in the first half to give the Texters a 42-34 halftime edge.
The lead quickly ballooned to 62-40 during the first six minutes of the third period as Howell continued to abuse the Gin Kings' local defenders inside the paint with his putbacks and short jumpers.
“It was a little difficult for Ginebra to ask a local to stop Richard Howell. He’s a pretty good player in the US and here in the Philippines,” explained the multi-titled PBA coach.
“Maybe the break has done him some good also because he was out for a week. He was pretty energized for the game today,” he added.
Talk ‘N Text’s defense stymied Ginebra’s offense, which could only shoot 36.3 percent from the field.
Mark Caguioa carried the fight for the Gin Kings with 19 points, while Gabe Freeman, the team’s third import this conference after Leon Rodgers and Josh Powell, finished his short-lived stint with Ginebra with 15 points and 22 rebounds.
Freeman, the former PBA Best Import awardee, shot a horrendous 2-of-17 from the field, getting majority of his points from the foul line.
Talk ‘N Text now awaits the winner of the Rain or Shine-Meralco quarterfinal series.
Talk 'N Text 97 - Howell 41, De Ocampo 15, Castro 13, Fonacier 12, Alapag 5, Williams 4, Carey 4, Canaleta 3, Salamat 0, Seigle 0, Aban 0, Reyes Jai 0, Reyes Ryan 0, Baclao 0.
Ginebra 84 - Caguioa 19, Freeman 15, Tenorio 12, Urbiztondo 9, Ababou 7, Aguilar 7, Slaughter 6, Baracael 4, Helterbrand 2, Mamaril 2, Reyes 1, Ellis 0.
Quarterscores: 27-21, 42-34, 79-53, 97-84