EVER wondered why University of Santo Tomas shows up with its A-game every time it goes up against University of the Philippines?
Even with their backs against the ropes, the fourth-ranked Growling Tigers did this against yesterday, manhandling the No. 2 Fighting Maroons 89-69 to forge a knockout match for a finals slot in the stepladder semifinals of the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament before a wild and roaring crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
In front of 17,722 fans, MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo wound up with 17 points, to go with 15 rebounds and two assists, while Rhenz Abando chipped in 17 markers and seven boards as the Tigers negated the Maroons’ twice-to-beat advantage in the semis. Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy, Sherwin Concepcion, and CJ Cansino also added 16, 12, and 11 points, respectively, for UST.
The knockout game is set on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena, with the winner advancing to a best-of-3 finals showdown with defending two-time champion and unbeaten Ateneo.
The Tigers also whipped UP 85-69 in their first round duel last Sept. 7 before following it up with an 84-78 triumph in the second round last Oct. 16.
UST coach Aldin Ayo said his charges followed their game plan that proved to be among the keys in their victory.
“It’s all about execution, execution both on offense and defense,” said Ayo.“Lahat ng instructions ko, sinunod ng players.”
The Espana-based Tigers came out with guns blazing and took a 41-24 spread at the half.
UST was still in command 60-47 going into the payoff period.
The Maroons battled back and pulled to within 63-72 on a Kobe Paras floater at the 3:13 mark of the fourth.
But the Tigers retaliated with a vicious 13-2 exchange punctuated by a Nonoy booming triple that made it 85-65, only 50.6 ticks left.
Juan Gomez de Liano paced UP with 20 points, while Bright Akhuetie and Ricci Rivero had 19 and 12, respectively.