THE National University Bulldogs revived their quest for a first UAAP basketball championship in 60 years, holding off Far Eastern University, 62-47, on Wednesday to send their best-of-three series to a deciding game.
The hot-starting Bulldogs opened the game with a 16-3 run, built leads as big as 16 points, and, unlike in Game One, never once let up before a crowd of 24,896 fans - the biggest to watch a basketball game at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Tamaraws, who won the series opener, 75-70, on Saturday, stayed within six points in the endgame only to be stopped on their tracks by back-to-back three-pointers by NU guard Gelo Alolino.
That kicked off celebrations in NU's side of the stands as the school, back in the finals for the first time in 44 years, moved within a win of its first championship since winning its only league title in 1954.
The deciding Game Three will be played on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Troy Rosario scored 15 of his 19 points in the first half while adding 14 rebounds for the Bulldogs as he atoned, as promised, for his 'disappearing act' in the second half of Game One.
But the story of the game, according to NU coach Eric Altamirano, was the Bulldogs’ defense which forced the Tamaraws to their lowest scoring output in the season.
“’Yun lang naman ang puwede naming gawin (defense),” said Altamirano. “We felt that we didn’t do a good job on defense (in Game One). We really focused on going on fundamentals and discipline on defense.”
Glenn Khobuntin had 17 points while Alolino got 12 points including a six-point swing in the crucial moments to seal the Game Two victory for the Bulldogs.
With FEU only trailing by six points, Alolino buried back-to-back triples that gave NU a 56-44 lead with 1:21 left in the fourth, a lead the Bulldogs protected to the end.
Altamirano commended the effort of the Bulldogs in Game Two after getting more offensive rebounds, 27-15.
“This game is all about effort. This game will boil down to effort. We felt that we were outworked in Game One. Today, we were able to address that,” said Altamirano.
Mark Belo had 17 points while Mike Tolomia finished with 15 points for FEU, which got into a big hole after scoring only scored six points in the first half.
NU (62)—Rosario 19, Khobuntin 17, Alolino 12, Aroga 7, Diputado 2, Alejandro 2, Neypes 2, Javelona 1, Betayene 0, Perez 0.
FEU (47) – Belo 17, Tolomia 15, Inigo 7, Pogoy 4, Jose 2, Cruz 2, Hargrove 0, Dennison 0, Tamsi 0, Ru. Escoto 0, Denila 0, Lee Yu 0, Ugsang 0, Ri. Escoto 0, David 0.
Quarterscores: 18-6, 26-18, 43-30, 62-47.