NU beats UST to bolster Final Four campaign

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THE National University Bulldogs kept their eyes focused on a possible Final Four berth as they dominated the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 73-60, in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament on Tuesday night at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

The win snapped NU’s four-game skid and eliminated UST from Final Four contention. More importantly, it bolstered the Bulldogs’ case for a semifinal slot as it boosted their record to 5-7, tying Adamson University for fifth place. The two schools trail the fourth-ranked Far Eastern University, which has an even 6-6 card.

“Good win for us” said NU coach Jeff Napa. “We’re hoping ma-translate namin to against UE sa Thursday. Our mindset is one game at a time.”

NU's defense was on point, holding the Growling Tigers to 12 points or less in the first three quarters to head to the fourth with a 19-point lead, 54-35. The Bulldogs then opened the payoff period with a 9-1 blitz, capped by Michael Malonzo's layup, to build an insurmountable 27-point lead with 7:51 to go, 63-36.

But UST pushed back with a 19-2 bomb, topped by Aldave Canoy's reverse layup, to pull within just 10 with 3:31 left, 55-65. NU, however, did just enough with timely baskets from Reyland Torres to keep the Growling Tigers at bay.

Torres finished with 18 points on the 4-of-7 clip, including two daggers, from deep to go with four rebounds.

Malonzo chipped in 11 points and 10 rebounds, while Janjan Felicilda added 12 points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs.

Cebuano guard Nic Cabañero had 13 points and 15 rebounds for UST while Joshua Fontanilla tallied 12 points. Sherwin Concepcion was held to just four points on 1-of-7 shooting from the field.

The Growling Tigers were kicked out of post-season contention after slipping to their fourth consecutive defeat at 3-9.

NU will try to build a case of getting the fourth seed when it battles winless University of the East at 10 am.

“Nag-start kami against UST. We will shift our focus against UE on Thursday,” added Napa. “Gusto din ng mga batang to ma-experience makarating sa Final Four.”

UST will meet University of the Philippines at 7 pm. (JNP)

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