MANILA, Philippines—RR Garcia awoke from a first-half slumber to lift Far Eastern University past De La Salle University, 74-65, in the curtain raiser of the UAAP Season 74 men’s basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum Sunday.
Garcia, the reigning MVP, spilled 17 of his 21 points in the second half for the Tamaraws including a baseline cut with 48.9 ticks that stunned the Green Archers for good.
Back-to-back treys from Garcia, his third, also gave last year’s runner-up its first double-digit buffer early in the payoff period.
Aldrech Ramos and JayR Cawaling threw their weight around as the former national team members chipped in 16 and 10 points, respectively.
Ramos, who hauled down eight rebounds, assisted Garcia in the determining backdoor play down the stretch, which halted a dangerous 6-0 La Salle blitz in the last two minutes.
“It was a good thing our big men like Aldrech and Cawaling stepped up for us,” said the returning mentor Bert Flores.
After going 2-6 from the field in the first two quarters, Garcia, the soft-spoken guard from Zamboanga City, announced his comeback by uncorking his first from the outside which sparked a pivotal 9-0 run in the third quarter for the Tamaraws.
“I couldn’t get my game going in the first half so I tried to be decoy,” said Garcia in Filipino. “Then they started giving me the ball in the second half.”
The Tamaraws were able seize total control of the foul-marred contest when they forced the Archers, who had a strong 9-3 start and were able to keep within striking distance, out of their usual game.
The diminutive guard Luis Revilla, who paced the Archers with 18 points, trimmed FEU’s double-digit buffer to 62-68, but missed on his next triple attempt to save La Salle.
Guards Luigi de la Paz and Jarelan Tampus combined for 17 points for La Salle, which even led, 39-35, with eight minutes into the third quarter.
The Archers’ youthful big men barely made their presence felt even as the lanky forward Yutien Andrada suffered a right-knee injury after a bad fall in the second quarter.
FEU 74—Garcia 21, Ramos 16, Cawaling 10, Cruz 9, Romeo 6, Bringas 5, Tolomia 3, Escoto 2, Exciminiano 2, Sentcheu 0, Pogoy 0, Knuttel 0.
La Salle 65—Revilla 18, De la Paz 9, Tampus 8, Van Opstal 5, Webb 5, Torres 4, Marata 4, Andrada 4, Gotladera 2, Vostros 2, Atkins 2, Villanueva 1, Mendoza 1, Sara 0, Paredes 0.