Third. Straight. Win.
That is what the UST Growling Tigers gave NU Bulldogs in their second round bout for UAAP Season 76. The boys in Gold and Blue gratefully accepted it and went on to win the game, 75-61. A none too easy game but a well-earned one nonetheless. The Tigers have given the Bulldogs one too many heartbreaks especially last season and it’s UST’s turn to be disappointed.
UST player Jeric Teng who has a padded shoulder makes his first appearance for the second round in this game but his comeback came short as he was taken out due to cramps in his right hamstring and was held out in the entire second half as precaution.
It was good to see the NU Bulldogs consistent in averaging above 40% in field goal shooting especially against UST. Though the España-based squad was shooting better than their last game together, the Bulldogs looked like they were in a better shape. Rebounds-wise, it was an even match up with both teams collecting 45 boards each.
The biggest difference was their turnover points. UST had more turnovers than NU which was surprising because NU, based on stats, gives away the ball more than UST. Out of the nine turnovers by the Bulldogs, the Tigers couldn’t convert any of it to points while from the 15 turnovers of the Tigers, the Bulldogs made 15 points out of it.
Review of the Keys to the Game
The NU Bulldogs have proven that they have been learning from their mistakes in round one and probably are listening to Kanye West before game time because clearly what doesn’t kill them only makes them stronger.
National-U who is on top of the leader boards when rebounding is right on their average this game. They had 45 boards and 15 offensive rebounds. Although it may look like they were on advantage, the boys couldn’t box out the UST big guys. Karim Abdul who was the leading scorer for his team and Kevin Ferrer had 24 rebounds together—12 apiece. While, on the other side, the highest rebounder was Emmanuel Mbe who only had 9 which is a few short of his average 11.6 rpg.
Clearly, the basket had been well for the Bulldogs these past few games. They have been averaging above 40% in terms of field goal shooting these last three games and it looks so much better than their performance last round. In contrast to the first seven games on National-U where they have been relying on Mbe and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. for offense, most of the boys from Sampaloc now have been contributing well in the win. Let’s take for example Robin Roño who was the hero of this game: supplied 19 points (season high) and has only missed one of his six three-point attempts, four rebounds and two steals. This veteran guard was on fire!
Another Bulldog who stepped up to the plate was Dennice Villamor who I consider as the missing piece to the championship puzzle of National-U. He didn’t show his three-pointer prowess this game but was 75% from the field goal and converted two triples making a total of 18 points—his season high.
NU scored 25 points out their 14 fastbreak attempts. It was definitely better than the Tigers who only scored eight points out of their five attempts. Ball passing was yet again in all-time high with Parks and Gelo Alolino manning the plays and getting a combined count of nine assists.
The Bulldogs started out the game strong with two fast breaks and a Jeoff Javillonar trey that gave them an early advantage and it continued well as the Tigers never had the chance to hold on to their lead long. Much to UST’s dismay, National-U shook off their habit of being complacent towards the end of the game when NU veteran point guard Roño made four triples in the last quarter.
According to NU head coach Eric Altamirano in an interview, “It was really a collective effort from our team,” and that has been the x-factor of this National University Bulldogs team who is now 7-3 in the standings and in solo second place.