By Gio Gloria
FEU Tamaraws def. UE Red Warriors, 82-58
Wendell Comboy (Game-high 17 points on five 3-pointers, four rebounds, and one block)
Wendell Comboy’s tendency not to force shots has helped FEU carve out three straight convincing victories. Whether it’s running around screens for an open top-of-the-key 3-pointer or serving as a decoy to get the likes of Kenneth Tuffin and Royce Alforque open looks, Comboy has been instrumental in helping the Tamaraws officially punch a ticket to the Final Four for the seventh straight season.
LJay Gonzales (12 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, and one steal)
Comboy may get more love for his scoring but for this season and beyond, LJay Gonzales will determine how deep FEU will go into the Final Four. His change of pace, scoring, and vision have largely contributed to the Tamaraws’ flowing offense and his 10 boards proved that he isn’t afraid to bang bodies with the big men of UE. With everyone counting FEU out in the preseason, his contributions to Tamaraws’ three-game winning streak to close out the elimination round prove that that he can shine in the big stage.
Rey Suerte (16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and five steals)
Rey Suerte’s performance in the penultimate game of his short UAAP career was nearly identical to his first round output against FEU except he posted more rebounds and assists in fewer minutes. Although he still found nifty ways to score, most of his production came with the game having been decided. He was clearly the marked man on offense as his four assists came with four turnovers, hindering the playmaking that helped set his teammates up.
Alex Diakhite (13 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, and three blocks)
Just like Suerte, Alex Diakhite’s performance was the spitting image of his output in his previous game against the Tamaraws. He labored for every point he scored and he had to juggle offensive duties with battling Pat Tchuente in the paint and contesting the drives of the likes of Comboy, Gonzales, and Alforque.
- The final score was eerily similar to their first round encounter last September 8, but FEU never let up by winning all four quarters (and seven of eight overall over two games). UE took a two-point lead on a Diakhite layup with 8:20 in the first quarter, but an Alec Stockton slam dunk a minute later gave the Tamaraws the lead for good.
- FEU’s offense was as sharp as ever, as they registered 20 assists and scored 13 fastbreak points to the Red Warriors’ four. Although they were outrebounded 51-45, UE pulled down 16 offensive rebounds, which translated to 17 second-chance points. Meanwhile, the Tamaraws had 12 offensive boards and only managed to score four second chance points.
- The Tamaraws’ ball movement allowed them to balance their inside and outside scoring, while the presence of Tchuente and Barkley Ebona made even the threat of a screen a reason for the Red Warriors to second guess how they should contain FEU’s guards. UE’s offense was more predictable, as the ball mainly went through either Suerte or Phillip Manalang, both of whom took turns in handing the ball to Diakhite, Neil Tolentino, Jem Cruz, and John Apacible.
- Apart from Tchuente, the Tamaraws give up both height and heft to Diakhite and the rest of the Red Warriors. However, FEU compensates for their lack of girth with solid fundamentals and the experience of playing together for more than a couple of years, all of which were evident with the way they ran their offensive sets and communicated on defense.
- Suerte had more steals than the Tamaraws, but FEU’s’ overall defense made a larger impact on the game. The Tamaraws limited UE to 28.77 percent shooting from the field while also forcing Suerte and Diakhite to commit a combined eight turnovers against six assists.