MANILA, Philippines – University of the East mounted a spirited comeback in the fourth quarter and escaped La Salle, 85-83, Saturday in the UAAP season 76 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Red Warriors erased a 10-point deficit in the last eight and a half minutes of the game with a rally sparked by Chris Javier and sustained by Roi Sumang, as Ralf Olivares and Dan Alberto completed the comeback for their second straight victory.
While it was a great comeback, head coach Boycie Zamar rued his players’ lack of mental toughness.
“We have to develop our mental toughness. It’s not the X-and-Os anymore when you’re down by 10. But we wouldn’t be down like that if we had mental toughness,” said Zamar.
Sumang wound up with 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Charles Mammie added 19 points and 16 boards while Javier had 16 markers.
From 58-68 down, Javier and Sumang tandemed in a 12-3 run to pull the game even at 73 with 3:21 to play, before Alberto and Olivarez accounted for UE’s last 10 markers.
A triple from Olivares –who was only used sparingly — gave the Red Warriors their first lead of the final quarter, 82-81, with 42.3 seconds after pouncing on a crucial miscue by La Salle.
“We have a ‘cat and mouse’ relationship. But it was a good thing he stepped up when I put him in the game,” also said Zamar.
He also had a crucial split from the stripe in their final offensive possession, but had to rely on luck when Norbert Torres pulled down his missed foul throw.
The Green Archers were just a basket away from overtime, and had 12.6 ticks to get either a tie or game-winning shot off, but Thomas Torres misfired on their final attempt.
UE reached the .500 mark (3-3) with just a game left in the first round of eliminations while La Salle dropped to 2-3.
Almond Vosotros’ new career high of 26 points — built on four triples — went down the drain. Teng, who had 13, was scoreless in the entire second half.