FAR EASTERN U brought University of the East down to earth right in the opener.
The Tamaraws fought back from a double-digit deficit to stun the preseason favorite Warriors, 89-78, at the start of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament yesterday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“I’ve been telling them (Tamaraws) that the real test is the real tournament,” said new FEU coach Nash Racela. “I’m happy we weren’t talked about much [in the preseason]. It lessened the pressure.”
Terrence Romeo and former MVP RR Garcia combined for 41 points as the Tams rallied from 15-26 to pull away by 15 in the fourth period against the Warriors, who came into the tournament fresh from topping a preseason event that featured most of the country’s top collegiate squads.
University of Santo Tomas survived La Salle in overtime, 63-58, in front of an electric crowd of 17 ,985 in the second game.
Often criticized for his selfish play, Romeo flirted with a triple-double with a game-high 23 points, nine rebounds and half of the Tamaraws’ 24 assists.
“I’ve been saying in the interviews that they’ll see a different Terrence Romeo,” said the senior guard sharing the team top billing with Garcia, who knocked in 11 of his 18 points in the final quarter.
Jeric Teng unloaded 23 points and Karim Abdul collected 17 markers, 10 boards and three blocks as the duo also combined for nine of the Tigers’ 12 points in overtime.
Playing with a sprained ankle, Aljon Mariano nailed three free throws inside the last 22 seconds for the final tally.
“Partly it’s opening jitters, but what’s important is we got the win,” said UST coach Pido Jarencio.
The Tamaraws trailed by as many as 11, 15-26, in the first half before Romeo, who had 18 points in the second half, keyed their turnaround.
Charles Mammie, a 6-foot-8 recruit from Sierra Leone, only got the green light to play hours before the game following an emergency meeting where the UAAP Board reviewed his eligibility documents along with Cameroonians Ingrid Sewa (Adamson) and Alfred Aroga (National U).
FEU 89–Romeo 23, Garcia 18, Hargrove 11, Belo 10, Tolomia 8, Cruz 8, Pogoy 7, Sentcheu 2, Mendoza 2, Jose 0.
UE 78–Sumang 22, Olivares 17, Casajeros 8, Noble 7, Mammie 7, Javier 4, Hernandez 4, Sumido 3, Santos 3, Jumao-as 3, Flores 0.
Quarters: 11-21, 32-37, 61-56, 89-78
UST 63–Teng 23, Abdul 17, Bautista 6, Mariano 5, Ferrer 5, Pe 3, Hainga 2, Daquioag 2, Lo 0.
LA SALLE 58–Vosotros 13, Perkins 13, Teng 10, T. Torres 7, N. Torres 6, Reyes 4, Revilla 4, Van Opstal 1, Tampus 0, Bolick 0.
Quarters: 10-12, 28-20, 40-34, 51-51 (reg), 63-58 (OT)