A REJUVENATED Jose Rizal University finally barged into the win column of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament following a 69-61 decision over a pesky College of St. Benilde on Monday at The Arena in San Juan.
The Heavy Bombers established an early sizeable cushion as they simply displayed the spunk that was missing in the first two games, but had to withstand a late comeback by the Blazers to register their first victory.
The Blazers’ endgame rally, which saw them almost erase a 21-point deficit and turn it to just two points, went for naught as they suffered a second straight setback to stay in the company of fellow winless teams Letran and Mapua at the bottom.
“The energy was finally there,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said as his team built leads that ballooned to 53-32 early in the third quarter.
Michael Mabulac typified the Bombers’ intensity, particularly in the first half, where the veteran big man scored all but two of his game-high 16 points as his team started to break away.
Rookie point guard Tey Teodoro also delivered with 11 markers, including a back-breaking triple down the stretch that doused the Blazers’ run.
Points came abundant for the Bombers in the first half, but it was prompted by their trademark defense that saw the Shaw-based dribblers limit the Blazers to just 26 points and 33-percent shooting in the first 20 minutes.
But the Bombers seemed to fall to complacency, committing turnover after turnover and giving up crucial free throws to the Blazers. In all, the Bombers committed 25 errors, five more than their opponents, and gave up 32 charity attempts, 19 of which went in.
JRU’s woes allowed the Blazers to claw back and nudge to within two after a triple by Travis Jonson with three minutes and 28 seconds left in the final frame, which, however, set the stage for Teodoro’s own trey.
JRU 69 – Mabulac 16, Teodoro 11, Sanchez 8, Paniamogan 8, Abdul Wahab 6, Benavides 6, Asuncion 6, Salaveria 5, Lasquety 3, Balagtas 0, Grospe 0
CSB 61 – Saavedra 15, Taha 11, Grey 9, Romero 7, Ongteco 5, Deles 4, Jonson 3, Bartolo 3, Nayve 2, Argamino 2, Sinco 0, Altamirano 0
Quarterscores: 14-13, 41-26, 60-45, 69-61