FAR Eastern University kept its Final Four hopes alive in UAAP Season 81 following a 79-74 win over National University on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Rookie LJay Gonzales came through with big shots to bail out the Tamaraws in the final period, putting to naught a career game by fellow freshman John Lloyd Clemente of the Bulldogs.
The win allowed the Tamaraws to keep in step with the University of the Philippines for fourth place on 7-6 (win-loss) records, with Adamson their opponent in their remaining game.
“We are still in the hunt. Wala pa kami sa Final Four. We still need one more win. Hopefully, nakakakuha na kami ng momentum," said FEU coach Olsen Racela.
"So far, these boys are playing really well the past two games. Except for pagputok ni Clemente, they followed our defensive game plan,” he added.
Clemente put up a performance to remember, pumping in 21 points in the third period to lead his team back from 16 points down in the first half. He finished with a season-high 38 points.
But the Bulldogs' momentum was doused when Gonzales scored five straight to bring the Tamaraws' lead back to 76-65 with 5:29 left in the game.
The Bulldogs had one more rally left in them as they got within six anew, but a Troy Rike turnover with 27 seconds left ended the team's hopes.
“Hopefully, we can sustain that against Adamson. We are going all out for the win. Whatever happens sa ibang games ng teams, we are going for that win,” he added.
Arvin Tolentino scored all 16 of his points in the first half, powering the Tamaraws to a 16-point lead. Kenneth Tuffin added 15 points and five boards.
Prince Orizu also made a triumphant return to the Tamaraws after missing three games as he finished with six points and five rebounds in nine minutes of action.
The loss put to waste a wild offensive night from Clemente, who went 14-of-25 from the field for the highest scoring performance by a player this season.
It was also the highest score in a game from a Bulldog since now-Letran head coach and NU assistant Jeff Napa scored 43 back in 2002.
Dave Ildefonso added 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists as the Bulldogs dropped to 3-10.
FEU 79 – Tolentino 16, Tuffin 15, Gonzales 9, Stockton 7, Parker 6, Inigo 6, Orizu 6, Bienes 5, Ebona 4, Comboy 3, Bayquin 2, Cani 0, Escoto 0
NU 74 – Clemente 38, Ildefonso D 12, Diputado 4, Yu 4, Rike 2, Aquino 2, Tibayan 2, Galinato 2, Gallego 2, Salim 2, Gaye 2, Ildefonso S 1, Malonzo 1, Joson 0, Sinclair 0
Quarters: 19-18, 44-28, 69-61, 79-74