TERRENCE Romeo and RR Garcia led a second-half blitz to power Far Eastern University to a stunning 89-78 victory over pre-tournament favorite University of the East in the opening game of the UAAP Season 76 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena Saturday.
Romeo had 23 points and nine rebounds in a near triple-double. Two of his 12 key assists also set up Garcia for a pair of three-pointers that allowed the Tamaraws to pull away from the Red Warriors.
Garcia, who came off the bench for the Tams, had 18 points on 3-of-7 shooting from three-point range. His final triple made it an 80-66 game in the fourth.
It was also a rousing debut for FEU coach Nash Racela, who was hired precisely to turn things around for the Morayta-based school after the Tamaraws missed the Final Four last season.
FEU struggled in the first half but soon overwhelmed UE, which recently won the Filoil Flying V Hanes Premier Cup title.
“We just reminded the boys to be patient with what we are doing,” said Racela. “We were struggling in the first half. UE played their game and yet we were down by just five points. I’m happy that they trusted me.”
FEU won after dishing out 24 assists -- half of which came from Romeo, who’s been at the receiving end of criticisms before for his penchant to play one-on-one.
The Red Warriors lost despite holding a 6-17 lead early in the first period. They already had a 30-20 lead, but the Tamaraws finished the second quarter strong behind a 12-7 windup.
FEU finally grabbed the lead on a deuce by Mike Tolomia, 47-46, and ended the third period ahead, 61-54, following an 11-2 blast.
The momentum swing was too much for the Warriors to overcome as Romeo hit a jumper and nailed three free throws, 74-60.
Roi Sumang had 22 points but was only 6-of-18 from the field. Ralf Olivares added 17 points.
Charles Mammie had seven points and 12 rebounds but was slapped with his fourth foul late in the third that further compounded the Warriors’ situation.
FEU continued its mastery on opening day as it now won six out of seven games since 2003, three of which came against UE.
FEU (89) – Romeo 23, Garcia 18, Hargrove 11, Belo 10, Tolomia 8, Cruz 8, Pogoy 7, Sentcheu 2, Mendoza 2, Jose 0.
UE (78) – Sumang 22, Olivares 17, Casajeros 8, Noble 7, Mammie 7, Javier 4, Hernandez 4, Sumido 3, Santos 3, Jumao-as 3, Flores 0.
Quarterscores: 11-21; 32-37; 61-56; 89-78.