The UST Growling Tigers suffered a double black eye loss against NU Bulldogs courtesy of Bobby Ray Parks’ comeback game and Jeric Teng’s shoulder injury. After a lackluster performance against the UE Red Warriors, the reigning back-to-back MVP Ray-Ray Parks redeemed himself with an all-around output of 20 points, six rebounds, six assists and two steals to avenge the Bulldogs over the Tigers in a much needed 71-67 victory. The absence of Teng in the second half was greatly felt by the Tigers as they were missing his clutch plays that could possibly complete their comeback run in the dying seconds of the game.
In the first half of the game, the Bulldogs were doing their damage inside the paint while the Tigers retaliated by hitting the lights out from beyond the arc. Bulldogs were so efficient at the rim and mid-range as they hit 50% of their attempts, almost two times better than the Tigers (NU shot 10 of 20 as compared to the 5 of 23 of UST). Plus they had a decent three-point shooting percentage of 37.5%. On the other hand, the Tigers’ magnificent three-point shooting percentage, making 6 out of 12 attempts, kept them alive despite their horrible combined mid-range and at-the-rim shooting percentage of 21.7%. In the end, NU’s dominance prevailed as they posted a 37-31 lead at the end of the first half.
Come the third period, the NU Bulldogs capitalized on the absence of Teng to post a double-digit lead behind the tag team heroics of Bobby Ray Parks and Emmanuel Mbe. They outscored the entire Growling Tigers by gathering a total of 15 points (out of the 17 points of NU) compared to the 13-point output of UST for that quarter.
In the final period, UST was able to get back into the game by penetrating and forcing their opponents to give up fouls and be in the penalty situation early on. In the fourth quarter alone, the Tigers were given a total of 24 charities that allowed them to put up points while the clock was not running (perfect scenario for a team that is catching up). The Tigers shot 62.5% in their free throw attempts better than NU’s 42.9% shooting in that quarter. With the Tigers converting more free throws and the Bulldogs splitting charities, the former was on the verge of another comeback. Unfortunately, UST missed three crucial free throws in the dying seconds. With 11 seconds left, UST was trailing by six points and Kevin Ferrer was fouled while attempting a three-point shot. Making all these FTs could narrow down the lead to a single possession. But Ferrer split the first two attempts forcing him to miss the last one for a possible offensive rebound. They successfully got the rebound and Eduardo Daquioag was fouled but he too split his charities with eight seconds remaining and NU still led at 68-64.
In the next possession UST was forced to foul Jeth Troy Rosario and he gladly made the two free throws extending the lead to six points. Ferrer threw up a desperate three to cut the lead to only three points with two seconds left. Never giving up, with a second remaining, UST still fouled Robin Rono who after sinking the first charity purposely missed the second attempt to secure the NU’s second win in Season 76.
Reviewing Keys of the Game
1. Extinguish NU’s (S)Parks
The reigning back-to-back MVP was so focused and determined to bounce back in this game. Ferrer and Kim Lo couldn’t do anything to stop him. Parks forcing his will towards the basket almost every time he had the ball, resulting in either a field goal or an assist to an open teammate. With Parks fueling NU’s offense, Teng benched due to injury and Aljon Mariano still not in his A game, UST had a hard time matching up.
2. Force and Convert TOs
The Tigers were able to learn their lessons from their previous outings. They were able to force turnovers and more importantly, convert them into buckets. At the end of the first half they had a commanding lead over the Bulldogs, scoring eight turnover points as compared to none for NU. Aside from three-point prowess that they displayed in this game, their ability to score on a turnover kept them alive.
3. Crash the Boards
UST was able to keep up with NU in terms of rebounding, grabbing 45 rebounds as compared to the 46 of the Bulldogs. Another improvement in the Tigers’ game but just not enough to contain Mbe from flourishing inside the shaded lane. NU’s import came up with his third straight double-double performance tallying 17 points and 11 rebounds outplaying his counterpart Kareem Abdul who only scored six points and 12 rebounds (second time to score below double-digit).
UST’s next opponent would be UE, tagged as one of the teams to beat this season, with Teng suiting up still questionable for this game on Saturday (July 13). I’m calling out Mariano and Abdul to step up and help Ferrer in shouldering Teng’s scoring. As of the moment, UST is in a four-way tie at the second place with La Salle, Adamson and NU. With the competition getting tighter, the Tigers should be able to continue their sweet shooting from beyond the arc and work on their inside presence, which by the way I’m pretty much dissatisfied. Abdul should bring back his last season performance for them to have a balanced inside and outside attack – a deadly combination that they are capable of.