A TIRED University of Santo Tomas side came out flat but still managed to overcome an upset-conscious University of the Philippines on Wednesday, 68-58, for its fifth straight victory in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tigers did not wrap up the victory, which put them in a share of the league lead with idle Ateneo and Far Eastern University, until Karim Abdul and Tata Bautista came away with crucial baskets to stretch a precarious one-point lead late in the fourth quarter.
Abdul had 20 points, 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks, while Bautista added 12. The duo sparked UST’s closing 14-2 run after the Maroons threatened for the last time at 55-54.
UST coach Pido Jarencio was on pins and needles for much of the game but emerged from it with a coaching milestone as he snatched his first five-game winning streak since taking over the team at the start of the 2006 season.
Jarencio said the players' lack of focus and energy can be partly blamed on the preliminary examinations that they had to prepare for when outside the court.
“Prelims ngayon kaya medyo bugbog ‘yung mga bata,” Jarencio explained.
Jarencio added: “Ang sama ng first three quarters namin hanggang sa last two minutes ng laro. Sinabi ko nga sa kanila na wala pa kaming ginagawa nung first half hanggang third quarter.
“Ang tamad namin at hindi kami nag-eexecute. Mabuti nalang noong fourth, pumick-up na ‘yung game nila,” said Jarencio.
After Raul Soyud cut UP’s deficit to a point, Abdul’s jumper inside the paint and Bautista’s three-pointer from the right corner put UST in front to stay, 60-54.
UP is the only winless team so far in the season with a 0-6 mark following the victory of University of the East in the first game.
UST (68) -- Abdul 20, Bautista 12, Lo 11, Fortuna 10, Vigil 7, Mariano 4, Ferrer 3, Afuang 1, Pe 0, Daquioag 0.
UP (58) -- Silungan 10, Lopez 10, Asilum 9, Ball 7, Mbah 5, Soyud 4, Manuel 4, Padilla 3, Romero 2, Montecastro 2, Hipolito 2, Wong 0.
Quarterscores: 16-15, 33-33, 50-45, 68-58.