NU holds off UST to keep Final Four hopes alive

National University came in blazing in the third quarter to hold off University of Santo Tomas, 73-60, and keep its Final Four hopes alive in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Tuesday night, April 26.

Mike Malonzo of National University (UAAP Media Bureau)

The Bulldogs suddenly caught momentum in the third frame and took their lead by as many as 22 points, 51-29, behind the efforts of Janjan Felicilda, Mike Malonzo, and Reyland Torres.

But it was Malonzo who spelled the difference with consistency, posting 11 points on a 4-of-5 shooting along with 10 rebounds, as NU ended its four-game skid and held on to dear life for a share of fifth place with Adamson at 5-7 record.

Bulldogs head coach Jeff Napa, however, lamented the complacency his wards have shown which enabled the Growling Tigers, who were eliminated in the process, to crawl back in the fourth quarter.

"Wala e. Kung baga porket malaki na 'yong lamang tendency mag-relax. So 'yon, 'yong mga nag-relax, sinabihan ko na umuwi na lang, kung gusto nila mauna umuwi, mauna na sila," said the three-time UAAP Juniors champion coach.

"Kasi 'di pa tapos 'yong laban parang gusto na nila umuwi na mag-relax. Kaya nagpalit agad ako ng tao. Luckily, etong mga nasa tabi ko (Malonzo and Torres) makakapal ang mukha, nag-step up."

Torres led all scorers with 18 points built on four triples to go with four rebounds while Felicilda flirted with a double-double performance of 12 points and nine rebounds as the three top scorers for the Bulldogs combined for a total of 41 points and 23 rebounds.

UST made up for its early slump with a 19-2 run sparked by Joshua Fontanilla and found itself still trailing by 10 points, 65-55, with less than three minutes to go in the payoff period.

Torres spoiled the party after dousing the Tigers’ late efforts with back-to-back dagger threes at the 2:07 and 1:28 marks to pull away for good with a 71-55 cushion.

Nic Cabanero paced the Tigers, who sustained a 3-9 record, with 13 points, 15 rebounds, and three assists, Fontanilla added 12 points, five rebounds, and four assists, and Paul Manalang had 11 points.

NU continues its hunt to retake the No. 4 spot when it faces the winless University of the East on Thursday, April 28 at their 10 a.m. curtain-raiser while UST battles second-seeded University of the Philippines at 7 p.m.

The Scores:

NU 73 -- Torres 18, Felicilda 12, Malonzo 11, Enriquez 9, Clemente 9, Joson 6, Gaye 4, Figueroa 2, Minerva 2, Yu 0, Ildefonso 0, Mahinay 0, Galinato 0, Manansala 0, Tibayan 0, Flores 0.

UST 60 -- Cabanero 13, Fontanilla 12, Manalang 11, Ando 7, Canoy 7, Concepcion 4, Santos 3, Manaytay 3, Pangilinan 0, Gesalem 0, Herrera 0, Garing 0.

Quarters: 17-12, 36-24, 54-35, 73-60.