FAR Eastern University withstood a late fightback by National University behind the clutch plays of Terrence Romeo as it hacked out an 87-83 victory on Wednesday to remain unbeaten in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Romeo fired 24 points, including four in the last 30 seconds, to preserve the victory after the Tamaraws almost squandered a 20-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“It’s how you finish,” Tamaraws coach Nash Racela later said. “We should learn from this game and can’t be satisfied.”
The Tamaraws stretched their winning streak to five games as they maintained their position atop the standings while matching the school's best start since the Morayta-based squad won its first seven games three years ago.
Reigning league MVP Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe combined for 53 points and fuelled the Bulldogs’ rally that went for naught in the end as the team suffered only its second loss in five games.
The Bulldogs banked on a 21-4 scoring salvo, capped by a Robin Roño triple, to close within 85-83 with 8.8 seconds remaining, before Romeo iced the game with two free throws in the next possession.
While it was his charities and a layup off his non-shooting hand that made the difference for FEU, Romeo’s three-point shooting also contributed heavily in his output as the fourth-year guard went 6-of-10 from behind the arc.
RR Garcia and Mike Tolomia, who form two-thirds of FEU’s triple-guard threat along with Romeo, were both held to single-digit outputs, allowing unheralded players Carl Cruz and Gryann Mendoza to step up.
“Defense will really focus on the three guys, so that will open up a lot of opportunities for the other guys,” Racela said.
FEU (87) - Romeo 24, Cruz 13, Mendoza 10, Garcia 9, Tolomia 7, Belo 6, Pogoy 5, Sentcheu 4, Iñigo 3, Jose 2, Hargrove 2, Dennison 2.
NU (83) - Mbe 27, Parks 26, Roño 9, Khobuntin 8, Javillionar 7, Villamor 2, Rosario 2, Alolino 2, Porter 0, De Guzman 0, Alejandro 0.
Quarterscores: 28-16; 45-36; 68-48; 87-83.