UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas relied on its bench to defeat University of the Philippines, 79-69, on Wednesday and remain in second place in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Growling Tigers survived another challenge by the Fighting Maroons that came up short in the end as they bounced back from a sorry loss to league-leading Far Eastern University Tamaraws last week.
The Tigers improved to 4-2 overall and gained a big morale boost ahead of their Saturday showdown against defending champion Ateneo Blue Eagles - their first since last season’s Finals.
UST coach Pido Jarencio, who took the blame for the Tigers’ loss to the Tamaraws, opted to dig deep into his bench this time around, a move that readily paid off as most of his players stayed fresh for the game.
Four players scored in double figures led by Aljon Mariano with 18 points. Kevin Ferrer had a double-double of 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Karim Abdul added 14 points.
Tata Bautista had 12 points including nine in the fourth quarter.
“Masama ‘yung nakaraan (FEU defeat), nag-collapse kami noong fourth quarter,” said Jarencio. “’Yung game na ‘yun kasalanan ko ‘yun. Against FEU, medyo mababaw ‘yung rotation ko, napagod sila.
“Medyo nakapag-isip-isip tayo na gumamit ng ibang players para makatulong sa team, kahit papano nagamit natin lahat. Na-testing ko kung sino ‘yung puwedeng makatulong,” he added.
The Tigers opened a 10-point lead (48-38) midway in the third following a 7-0 run. The Maroons were able to trim the gap to five points in the fourth, but Bautista hit a timely three-pointer with two minutes left to knock the wind off the Maroons' sails.
UP got 16 points from Sam Marata, but remained winless in six games.
The Maroons missed center Raul Soyud after he was slapped with his second unsportsmanlike foul of the season in the team’s last outing against Ateneo.
UST (79) - Mariano 18, Ferrer 16, Abdul 14, Bautista 12, Lo 9, So 4, Daquioag 4, Pe 2, Tan 0, Macasaet 0, Lao 0, Hainga 0, Faundo 0.
UP (69) - Marata 16, Lao 9, Wong 7, Pascual 7, Ball 7, Ligad 7, Gingerich 5, Suarez 4, Harris 4, Asilum 4, Gallarza 0.
Quarterscores: 21-15; 35-31; 56-48; 79-69.