(UPDATE) MANILA, Philippines – Despite an early exit from the Final Four race, the NU Bulldogs played with great resolve to tame the Karim Abdul-less UST Growling Tigers, 73-49, Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum to end their UAAP Season 74 campaign on a high note.
Without UST’s Cameroonian slotman Abdul, who missed the game due to suspension for incurring two unsportsmanlike fouls in the season, the Bulldogs took advantage as they turned to their own Cameroonian big man Emmanuel Mbe and celebrated rookie Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. inside to chalk up their second straight win, their sixth overall in 14 games.
Mbe scored eight of his 14 points in the opening period while Parks started and closed the game strong, delivering nine and 11 points in the first and fourth quarters, respectively.
Parks, who is one of the prime candidates for the season’s MVP plum, made a strong case with a game-high 22 points on top of eight rebounds, six assists and three blocks and left his rookie year with what could be the season’s play of the year in the dying seconds when he saved the ball from getting out of bounds and flipped it behind his back that surprisingly found the bottom of the net.
“That was a lucky shot. I didn’t even know it went in until I saw the crowd reacting on the video replay,” Parks later told the scribes in the post-game interview.
Behind Mbe and Parks, NU took a nine-point lead in the opening quarter but UST rallied behind its outside shooting in the second canto to get within four, 29-25, at the break.
Abdul’s absence took its toll on UST in the second half as NU started to rip the game apart.
The win gave NU a fifth place finish for the second straight year. NU finished with an even 7-7 card last season under Eric Gonzales.
“Our goal was to get in the Final Four. Until we get there or in the championship, that is the only time we can measure the success of the system,” NU coach Eric Altamirano said. “We wanted to end the season on a winning note to build confidence going into next season. We’ll take some time off before returning to training to give our players more time to focus on their studies.”
The loss halted UST’s winning run in the second round at four and the Tigers will have to wait the second game result between La Salle and FEU to determine their seeding in the Final Four, which still ongoing as of this writing.
UST, which wound up at 8-6, is hoping for an FEU loss to end up at third and arrange a Final Four date with no. 2 seed Adamson. An FEU victory will move UST down to fourth spot and the daunting task to beat four-peat seeking Ateneo twice in the Final Four.
NU 73 – Parks 22, Mbe 14, Javillonar 9, Labing-isa 8, Singh 6, Rono 5, Alolino 5, Neypes 5, Villamor 0, Celiz 0, Magat 0.
UST 49 – Teng 19, Fortuna 8, Lo 7, Camus 5, Vigil 3, Pe 2, Ungria 2, Aytona 2, Ferrer 1, Tan 0, Sheriff 0, Lao 0, Javier 0.
Quarters: 23-12, 29-25, 47-35, 73-49.