WARRIORS FINALLY WIN
University of Santo Tomas only needed a singular spurt in the fourth period to turn back University of the Philippines, 69-58, yesterday as the Tigers rampaged to their fifth straight victory and joined idle leaders Ateneo de Manila and Far Eastern University at the top of the standings of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bull-strong Cameroonian Karim Abdul asserted his strength inside the lane and scored on two inside baskets off UP slotman Raul Soyud while Clark Bautista canned a three-pointer from the corner in a pivotal seven-point roll that shoved them ahead, 62-54, after the Maroons challenged for the last time, 54-55.
Thus, the Tigers, playing anew without starting offguard Jeric Teng, roared to their fifth straight win — their longest victorious streak in recent memory — in six games and are now poised to finish the first round of the eliminations at the top of this eight-team roster.
They only need to prevail over lower-tier squad, Adamson (1-5), in their game on Sunday to forge a tie for the top spot after the first round of eliminations as the Blue Eagles and Tamaraws fight it out for that share of the lead on Saturday.
UP obviously spent itself from the effort of keeping up with the potent UST squad and dropped its sixth game in a row and remained the tournament’s only winless squad.
And while the Maroons’ woes persisted, University of the East finally came out of a five-game slump, outlasting Adamson University through the heroics of spitfire Roi Sumang, 71-66, in the first game.
Sumang fired eight of the Red Warriors’ last 10 points as he took charge in scuttling the Falcons’ bid to come back from deficits of as many as 18 points, 29-47, in the third quarter and threaten to within 58-61 going into the last two minutes of the game.
That win tied the Recto-based cagers with the Falcons at 1-5.
It was another frustrating loss for the Maroons, whose winless record so far is no indication about their vaunted fighting ways.
They fought the heavily-favored Tigers tooth-and-nail throughout and even took the lead for the last time, 43-42, on free throws from Mark Lopez with 3:10 left in the third quarter.
But their last gasp came off a jumper by Lopez and a free throw by Cris Ball that put the Maroons within striking distance at 54-55, time down to 4:48.
It was a scoreless three minutes from there for UP as Mike Silungan and Lopez combined on three missed three-pointers while rookie guard Henry Asilum muffed a drive.
This was translated by the Tigers into that pivotal 7-0 run, highlighted by a power drive by Abdul that gave them a 62-54 cushion with only 77 seconds left in the game.
Abdul, the sophomore equally burdened off the court with his engineering studies, continued to post numbers worthy of an MVP norm and finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Sumang actually preserved his own superb exploits in the third quarter where he also scored eight points in towing the Red Warriors from a 30-21 lead at the half with a 17-8 barrage that gave them their biggest advantage, 47-29, with 3:02 left in the period.
The Falcons surged back behind veterans Roider Cabrera and Eric Camson in the fourth quarter as they closed in at 58-61 with only 2:40 on the gameclock. But it was also their faulty free throw shooting that did them in as they muffed six straight charities from there.