by Waylon Galvez
It didn’t take long for coach Aldin Ayo to give his new team University of Santo Tomas its first win.
After losing in their season debut, the Growling Tigers used a small-ball lineup in the fourth quarter to score a stunning 76-74 win over the Far Eastern University Tamaraws in the 81st UAAP men’s basketball tournament Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Ayo’s ‘small guys’ of Marvin Lee and Renzo Subido provided the big shots down the stretch as UST rebounded from a 68-61 setback in its season debut last Saturday and denied FEU a change to get a 2-0 start.
Lee converted a basket with less than three minutes to play that gave the Tigers a three-point lead, 74-71. After the two teams traded missed shots, Dexter Zamora drained a jumper with 18.5 seconds left to give UST a 76-71 advantage.
Hubert Cani buried a triple that trimmed UST’s lead to only two points, 76-74. But after a turnover by Lee, Arvin Tolentino missed a potential game-winning three-pointer at the buzzer.
Subido led UST with 18 points as the Tigers improved to 1-1, the same record of FEU. Lee contributed 13 points, four assists, and two steals while rookie Joshua Marcos added 12 off the bench.
“We’re a very young team, our team is composed of nine rookies,” said an emotional Ayo, who coached De La Salle University for two seasons.
“Our rookies, they’re still adjusting, and it’s not just about the game. The good thing is they’re playing well and the good result for us. That’s just what we want, as the season progresses we can make the adjustments,” added Ayo, who took over from Boy Sablan.
FEU’s 6-foot-8 center Prince Orizu was a dominant force as he collected a career-best 25 points with 15 rebounds and three shot blocks. Cani added 15 points and Richard Escoto had 13 points.
In the second game, defending champion Ateneo rebounded from a painful opening day loss after downing the University of the Philippines, 87-79.
Thirdy Ravena, last season’s Finals MVP, finished with a game-high 17 points and 11 rebounds while Asistio chipped in 16 markers.
“It’s hard. Really hard. I thought UP played well,” said Ateneo mentor Tab Baldwin.
Baldwin also got solid performances from Ivorian Angelo Kouame with 14 points, nine rebounds and five blocks while Matt Nieto added 12 points.
“We’ve said it all along, and we’re realizing the truth of it… its gonna be a fight every time out and we’ll have everybody’s best. I’m happy with the fight we had inside of us,” he added.
Juan Gomez de Liano led the Fighting Maroons with a career-high 29 points who played without head coach Bo Perasol in the final 6:56 of the match after being ejected for his violent reaction on what appeared to be a non-call on Bright Akhuetie.
UST 76 – Subido 18, Lee 13, Marcos 12, Akomo 10, Huang 9, Cansino 7, Zamora 5, Mahinay 2, Consejo 0, Enrique 0, Bonleon 0 .
FEU 74 – Orizu 25, Cani 15, Escoto 13, Tolentino 5, Comboy 5, Parker 4, Tuffin 2, Ebona 2, Stockton 2, Inigo 0, Gonzalez 0.
Quarters: 15-17, 39-32, 56-52, 76-74.
ATENEO 87 – Ravena 17, Asistio 16, Kouame 14, Ma. Nieto 12, Mi. Nieto 7, Go 5, Mendoza 5, Wong 5, Verano 4, Black 2, Belangel 0, Navarro 0.
UP 79 – Ju. Gomez de Liano 29, Desiderio 15, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 8, Ja. Gomez de Liano 5, Murrell 4, Dario 3, Gozum 2, Prado 2, Vito 2, Jaboneta 0, Lim 0, Spencer 0, Tungcab 0.
Quarters: 25-24, 46-43, 67-58, 87-79.