KARIM Abdul had 23 points, Kevin Ferrer added 21 and University of Santo Tomas overcame a big early deficit in the first half to beat Far Eastern University, 85-76, on Saturday and secure at least a playoff for a semifinal spot in the UAAP Season 78 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Abdul and Ferrer led a spirited UST comeback from 14 points down in a big third-quarter run to beat the league-leader in what could be a preview of this year’s championship series.
The Growling Tigers improved their win-loss record to 10-3, sweeping their elimination round series with the Tamaraws, who remained in first place with a 10-2 card but saw their nine-game win streak snapped.
An exhausted Ferrer had to be taken to the dugout at the end of the third quarter and supplemental oxygen had to be administered, and he managed to return to finish the game.
UST fought back from a 24-38 deficit and went on to tie the match at 45 at halftime before ending the third with a 12-2 run for a 69-59 advantage.
Embons Bonleon picked it up in the absence of Ferrer, scoring 11 of his 13 points in the second half including a triple that put UST ahead, 78-65.
UST coach Bong de la Cruz said the Tigers stuck with their defensive plan even as Tamaraws shot well from the arc in the first half.
“Dumepensa lang kami. Tumatama ‘yung three-points nila. Sabi ko, i-execute lang natin ‘yung defense. We kept on defending. We enjoyed playing defense,” said De la Cruz.
“’Yung character ng team nakikita namin. Masaya kami dito sa panalo dahil nag-prepare kami ng husto sa game na ‘to,” the rookie coach added.
Mike Tolomia had 17 points, Alfrancis Tamsi added 15 and Mac Belo scored 12 for the Tamaraws.
UST 85 - Abdul 23, Ferrer 21, Bonleon 13, Vigil 13, Daquioag 11, Lee 4, Faundo 0, Sheriff 0, Lao 0, Suarez 0.
FEU 76 - Tolomia 17, Tamsi 15, Belo 12, Pogoy 8, Ru. Escoto 6, Arong 5, Jose 4, Orizu 4, Trinidad 3, Inigo 2, Dennison 0, Ebona 0, Ri. Escoto 0.
Quartersores: 19-30; 45-45; 69-59; 85-76.