NATIONAL University knew all too well how much damage Rhenz Abando can do and seemingly kept the 6-foot-3 forward at bay for the first three quarters.
But it was only a matter of time before University of Santo Tomas coach Aldin Ayo figured out a way to unleash his high-flying rookie.
Abando scored seven points in the last 1:32 of the regulation as he played a huge role in the Growling Tigers' fightback after being down, 68-63, with 42.3 seconds left.
With the game going to overtime, Abando continued to do his damage, burying two treys to put his side up, 81-73, as NU just unraveled from that point on.
"Nung overtime na, doon ko lang naramdaman na nasa loob lang ako ng sistema eh. Kasi nung hanggang sa fourth quarter, nasa labas ako ng sistema at yun yung mali ko, na naghahanap ako para sa sarili ko," said the pride of Sto. Tomas, La Union.
Abando finished with 21 points on a 5-of-10 shooting from deep, to go with six rebounds and two assists in UST's 87-74 overtime triumph over NU on Sunday in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
Ayo, though, had no doubt that Abando was bound to break out in the game after struggling in the first three periods.
That's why the stern mentor reminded his rookie to always stay with what has been the Growling Tigers' tried-and-tested system and just let the game come to him.
"He just has to play his game," said Ayo. "Hayaan niya lang dumating sa kanya yung laro. Huwag niya hanapin yung laro niya at hintayan niya lang dumating sa kanya yung laro niya because alam namin kung gaano siya ka-talented and skilled. Yun lang, kailangan lang niya maglaro ng laro niya at huwag niya pipilitin."
And Abando promised to take those words into heart.
"Tama yung sinasasabi ni coach na hahanapin at hahanapin ako," he said.