Growling Tigers thump Fighting Maroons on late 20-0 run

When the University of Santo Tomas switched to high gear, the University of the Philippines failed to keep in step and was completely left eating dust.

Reserving their best for last, the Growling Tigers foiled the fast-starting Fighting Maroons on Saturday afternoon 73-57 to gain a share of second spot in the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

After trailing by as many as 11 points in the early goings, UST picked up steam late in the second canto and continued its surge in the third before unleashing a jarring 20-to-nothing run in final frame to turn what was shaping up a tight contest into an instant romp over a fading UP crew.

Karim Abdul tallied a game-best 18 points while comebacking forward Louie Vigil and power forward Aljohn Mariano combined for 27 markers to help the cause of UST, which racked up its third straight win and improved to 3-1 overall, tying idle Ateneo and Far Eastern U in the process.

The Tigers limitied the Fighting Maroons to just 18 points in the second half, highlighted by an near eight-minute scoring drought that allowed them to turn a 53-54 deficit into a huge 19-point cushion with less than 90 ticks to play.

Going down the drain with UP’s fifth straight loss was the 15-point output by Dave Moralde and the combined 20-marker efforts from guard Henry Asium and JR Gallarza.

The Maroons made 16 of their first 30 attempts from the field for a sizzling 53.3 percent clip but they certainly groped for form in the second half, missing 19 of their next 25 attempts, no thanks to the Tigers’ defense.

With Moralde hitting his stride early on, the Fighting Maroons finished the opening canto with nine straight points to turn a four-point cushion into a 19-14 lead.

Then Asilum picked up from where Moralde took off as he racked up seven points in the second frame, highlighted by a huge triple that gave them a 35-24 lead, before the Tigers charged back with a 12-4 run mainly behind Louie Vigil and Karim Abdul to pull within three at the break.

The Tigers started to take control in the third with a 15-6 run for a 51-45 lead, capped by Abdul’s pair of freebies over UP’s Gelo Vito, before the Fighting Maroons clawed back and even took a slim 54-53 cushion off Diego Dario’s lay-up with 7:44 left to play.

However, that proved to be UP’s last hurrah as UST tightened up its defense while scoring the next 20 points to complete its come-from-behind victory.

The Main Man: For the second straight game, wingman Louie Vigil had another solid performance of 17 points on top of four rebounds, three steals and a dime.

Honorable Mentions: Backing up Vigil’s exploits were Cameroon center Karim Abdul and power forward Aljon Mariano.

Game Turning Point: After Diego Dario gave UP a 54-53 cushion, UST mightily charged back with a telling 20-to-nothing run that allowed it to cruise to the finish.

He Said It:
UST coach Bong dela Cruz: Siguro 'yung shooting namin nu’ng first three quarters, hindi nagki-click. Tyinaga lang namin at nag-payoff naman nung fourth quarter.

The scores:
UST (73) — Abdul 18, Vigil 17, Mariano 10, Ferrer 9, Daquioag 7, Subido 5, Sheriff 4, Lao 2, Gayosa 1, Basibas 0, dela Cruz 0, Lo 0, Macasaet 0, Pe 0, Sablan 0.

UP (57) — Moralde 15, Asilum 10, Gallarza 10, Reyes 8, Lao 6, Amar 5, Dario 2, Vito 1, Gingerich 0, Juruena 0, Harris 0.
Quarterscores: 14-19; 36-39; 53-50; 73-57.