DAVE Ildefonso saved his best for last, anchoring National University to a 69-61 victory over University of Santo Tomas on Sunday in the UAAP Season 81 men's basketball tournament at Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan.
The super-rookie unleashed seven of the Bulldogs' last 12 points as they staved off a hot-shooting rally from the Growling Tigers and keep themselves in the race to the Final Four.
Ildefonso uncorked 16 points, four rebounds, and three assists as he took charge for NU in the endgame after UST ate what was once an 11-point lead, 53-42 entering the fourth down to just one, 57-56 with five minutes and five seconds still to play.
Issa Gaye also was big in the end game, blocking Ira Bataller in the final minute before quickly following it up with a short floater in the final 19.1 seconds to cap off his 10-point, 7-rebound, and 5-block performance.
Troy Rike also had 13 points, seven boards, and four assists in the win, while John Lloyd Clemente got 12 points, four rebounds, and four dimes for the Bulldogs.
NU improved to a 3-6 record, but coach Jamike Jarin defrayed the credit to his top dogs in Ildefonso and Rike, who took the baton and saved his side from further descending down the standings.
"It's not me. It's just 16 players responding right now and the two here are the ones who shone the brightest," he said.
However, Jarin said performances like this one won't cut it when it faces Ateneo on Saturday.
"You plan ahead and hopefully, we get the same result. But this performance will not be enough to get against Ateneo," he said.
NU survived a torrid three-point shooting from UST, which went 10-of-36 from downtown.
Renzo Subido paced the Growling Tigers with 18 points on a 5-of-16 shooting from threes, while Marvin Lee got 12 points and four rebounds as they saw their three-game winning run snapped.
UST dropped to 4-5 and stayed at fifth place after the defeat.
CJ Cansino also scored eight points, but grabbed 18 rebounds to continue his stellar rookie season.
NU 69 – Ildefonso D 16, Rike 13, Clemente 12, Gaye 10, Diputado 7, Ildefonso S 4, Yu 3, Joson 2, Sinclair 2, Aquino 0, Gallego 0, Galinato 0, Tibayan 0.
UST 61 – Subido 18, Lee 12, Huang 11, Cansino 8, Mahinay 8, Caunan 4, Bataller 0, Marcos 0, Zamora 0, Cosejo 0, Agustin 0.
Quarters: 15-11, 33-32, 53-42, 69-61.