University of Santo Tomas clawed back from a huge deficit to shock defending champions Ateneo, 71-70, in UAAP Season 75 action Thursday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Forward Aljon Mariano led the Growling Tigers comeback, exploding for 15 of his 21 points in the third quarter and grabbing 13 rebounds to help UST snap a 12-game losing streak to Ateneo.
“Nakatsamba rin sa wakas,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio, whose last win against Ateneo came in August 2007 in an 87-74 victory. “Hindi naman pwedeng puro iyak tayo at naghihinagpis. Dumating na rin yung araw na yun.”
Ateneo opened with an 8-0 run en route to a 27-12 lead in the first quarter. The Blue Eagles led by as much as 19 points on a Kiefer Ravena layup at the 2:22 mark of the second quarter, before ending the half with a 43-28 advantage.
But the Tigers came out roaring after the break, as Mariano spearheaded a 17-5 spurt to help UST tie the game at 54-all with 1:21 left in the third quarter. UST finally took the lead after the third-year returning guard sank a layup with 28 seconds left in the period. Jeric Teng scored right before the buzzer to give the Tigers a 58-54 lead at the end of third quarter.
UST pushed its lead to as much as seven in the fourth period, before Ateneo closed the gap to two points, 69-67, with 33.5 seconds left in the game courtesy of a putback from guard Kiefer Ravena. Center Karim Abdul then sank a layup with 10 seconds left, before Juami Tiongson rifled a three-pointer with just five seconds left to keep the Eagles within one, 71-70.
After a timeout, Ateneo fouled Teng, who muffed the first and intentionally missed his second free throw to help UST seal the victory and recover from its painful 73-72 opening day loss against Far Eastern University last Saturday.
Ravena led Ateneo with 19 points, while forward Nico Salva chipped in 17 points and eight rebounds. Star center Greg Slaughter, who did not play much in the Blue Eagles’ third quarter collapse, was limited to nine points.