National University escaped with a 73-68 win over Far Eastern University to end its two-game skid en route to its second win in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Saturday, April 2.
NU veterans stepped up big time down the stretch as John Lloyd Clemente finally found his groove and posted 18 points that went with nine rebounds and six assists.
Michael Malonzo, who made clutch plays in the waning seconds, chalked up 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting with seven rebounds while Shaun Ildefonso had 13 points and six rebounds as the Bulldogs improved to a 2-2 record.
“At least ‘yong veterans nag-step up na (The veterans stepped up this time),” said NU head coach Jeff Napa.
“The past three games, ‘yon ‘yong missing link namin. ‘Yon ‘yong turnaround ng game kasi nag step-up ‘yong veterans tapos sumama na yung mga rookies kaya nakuha namin yung panalo na ‘to (The veterans were the missing link the past three games. That was the turnaround of the game as the rookies joined them, that’s why we got the win).”
With less than a minute to work on, Malonzo grabbed an offensive rebound off Jake Figueroa’s split free throw, drew a foul to put himself on the line, and sank a pair of free throws to take a 68-66 lead.
Malonzo carried on with a pivotal three-point play to get away with a five-point advantage with 38 ticks left, 71-66.
RJ Abarrientos and Royce Alforque fired blanks from beyond the arc but Ljay Gonzales scored a basket to give the Tamaraws a glimmer of hope, 71-68, with 21.6 seconds to go.
FEU forced a turnover at crunch time but Alforque and Xyrus Torres missed back-to-back triples anew as Clemente sank two free throws to seal the deal for NU.
RJ Abarrientos waxed hot for FEU but lost steam as the Tamaraws were limited to just one field foal in the last five minutes.
The 5-foot-11 rookie combo guard fired 33 points on an 11-of-21 clip powered by eight three-pointers and grabbed five rebounds, Royce Alforque added 13 points and three rebounds while Ljay Gonzales struggled with nine points on 3-of-8 shooting and six rebounds for the Tamaraws, who fell down to a 1-3 hole.
NU 73 — Clemente 18, Malonzo 14, Ildefonso 13, Minerva 9, Felicilda 7, Figueroa 5, Joson 4, Galinato 2, Tibayan 1, Gaye 0, Enriquez 0, Yu 0, Torres 0, Manansala 0, Mahinay 0.
FEU 68 — Abarrientos 33, Alforque 13, Gonzales 9, Bienes 4, Tempra 4, Ojuola 3, Sajonia 2, Torres 0, Coquia 0, Sleat 0, Li 0, Sandagon 0, Celzo 0.
Quarters: 14-18, 32-33, 49-58, 73-68.