MANILA, Philippines – Groping for form, University of Santo Tomas forward Aljon Mariano picked the best time to bust out of his slump.
Mariano, who came in averaging just a little over six points per game, delivered his best game yet at the most opportune time with Growling Tigers’ top scorer and team captain Jeric Teng relegated as a cheerleader with an injured shoulder.
“Jeric [Teng] wasn’t there so I needed to step up,” Mariano said after leading UST to an 88-77 win over University of the East Saturday.
The six-foot-three Mariano knocked in 24 points, with 19 of which coming in the second half, grabbed 11 rebounds and collected three assists and one block.
All that stat-sheet stuffing numbers with still a “weak” left ankle.
“Actually, I wasn’t 100 percent the past games. I was just trying to play for the team. I was injured before the start of the season, a week before,” Mariano admitted.
“I was groping a little for my timing, I was groping for my rhythm. I got a little of it the last time but I’m not totally 100 percent. My timing was good earlier that’s why I got my game back,” he said.
Mariano, who said he’s still “80-90 percent”, added that his poor start to open up the season got into him.
“I really needed to step up because I was starting to feel bad about myself. For the past games, I was the missing link. The coaches were telling me I was the missing link so I needed this kind of game. I hope this will continue,” he said.
Next up for UST is Far Eastern University, a team the Tigers were 0-2 against last year.
“It’s extra motivation for us. I need to remind my teammates that we haven’t won against them.”