And we’re tied!
The Smart-Araneta was filled to the rafters, as 21,933 passionate fans were in attendance to support their respective teams.
FEU went into the game looking to end the series. Using their solid defense, the Great Wall of Morayta forced UST into terrible offensive possessions throughout the first half. It seemed as if the Growling Tigers were entering a complex obstacle course whenever they tried attacking the basket. This resulted to bricks, turnovers, and more than a dozen "agawan buko" scenarios a.k.a. important breaks of the game that went in favor of the Tamaraws.
With suffocating defense and FEU forward Roger Pogoy doing a damn good impersonation of "Big Game" James Yap, the Tigers were in serious trouble. FEU led by nine, 30-21, at halftime.
Then, Kevin Ferrer happened.
UST's team captain put on a show in the third quarter. Ferrer hit six triples and three inside buckets, scoring 24 of his 29 points in the period—arguably the most explosive offensive performance in a single quarter in local collegiate basketball history. The man just became Klay Thompson-esque, and it was definitely a treat for basketball fans.
Ed Daquioag still struggled with his shots, going 3-of-13 from the field. He made his presence felt on the defensive end though, as he hounded FEU’s guards and prevented them from scoring at will inside.
Karim Abdul, despite committing three quick fouls in the opening quarter and getting into foul trouble early in the game, still managed to outplay FEU big man Prince Orizu who graduated with five fouls with 2:07 left in the game.
España’s bae, Louie Vigil, also contributed to the victory, nailing the go-ahead jumper for UST in the final quarter.
FEU simply can’t buy a basket during the final minutes of the game. Unlike his clutch performance in Game 1, ace guard Mike Tolomia failed to enter the zone as he missed all of his 15 shots. He did manage eight points though—all on freethrows.
UST secured the key rebounds in the last minute of the game, and held on to win the game and tie the series.
Both teams are now gearing up for tomorrow's final showdown. And, with seniors on both sides hoping to go out with a bang, we are expecting this do-or-die to be nothing less than a total thriller.
Here we've listed the things that might just happen in Game 3!
MAC BELO'S BIG GAME HUNTING
FEU big man Mac Belo is regarded as one of the best college players in the country. He suffered a bitter loss in last season’s finale against the National University Bulldogs, and he’s on the verge of experiencing the same letdown once again.
He played just fine in Games 1 and 2, tallying a total of 29 points and 24 rebounds. But, considering his caliber and the fact that his college basketball journey is about to end, playing just "fine" is certainly not enough. You know he’d do everything in his power to end his collegiate career on a high note. A Game 3 explosion certainly isn't far-fetched.
MIKE TOLOMIA'S COMEBACK
FEU’s floor general played awful in Game 2, scoring only eight points, all from the charity stripe. He shot horribly, making zero of his attempts, and turned the ball over six times.
He’s supposed to be Coach Nash Racela’s most reliable guy, but he failed to deliver in what could’ve been the title-clincher for them. Tolomia’s too talented to play that bad again. Don’t be surprised if he produces stellar numbers for FEU in Game 3.
ROGER POGOY'S MINUTES WILL BE MANAGED WISELY
Pogoy getting cramps in the most important minutes of Game 2 was a big blow to the Tamaraws. He's one of FEU's main gunners and has saved his team a number of times in the past. His absence certainly made life easier for UST's defense.
Come Game 3, Coach Racela will definitely manage Pogoy’s minutes more wisely. He'll probably be on the bench during stretches in the middle quarters, so he'll have enough energy to finish the game without cramping up. That's how valuable he is.
KEVIN FERRER'S FIREWORKS PART DEUX
The basketball gods possessed Kevin Ferrer for a short period in Game 2. He instantly became eligible to become the third Splash Brother after that unconscious third quarter. That brief stretch was enough to really put the hurt on the Tamaraws. 24 points in 10 minutes. Wow.
In Game 3 a.k.a. the biggest game of his UAAP career, we expect him to put it all on the line, especially on offense. Wag that tongue, young man!
ED DAQUIOAG'S BREAKOUT PARTY
His offensive contributions have been limited in the first two games, but we all know Daquioag is capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night. What if he suddenly figures out FEU’s defense? That’s a possibility that could fatally hurt the Tamaraws. Coach Nash and his boys better keep a body on him at all times.
UST'S SMALL BALL VS FEU'S DEFENSIVE WALL
When Karim Abdul was benched due to foul trouble in Game 2, UST was forced to go small. This served as a blessing in disguise though, as the shorter but quicker Growling Tigers worked well against the tall Tamaraw defense.
We've said that this will be a battle of "shield and spear" a.k.a. defense vs offense. Game 1 went to the shield, while the spear pierced its way to victory in Game 2. Let's see which will come out victorious in Game 3.
COACH PIDO'S (LUCKY) PABEBE WAVE
The legendary UST alumnus and PBA coach did the pabebe wave when his face was flashed on the arena’s Jumbotron in Game 2. As embarrassing at it was, it may have served as UST’s lucky charm. Don’t be surprised if Coach Pido does it again tomorrow.
Game 3 of the UAAP 78 Men's Basketball Finals is happening tomorrow, December 2, 3:30 p.m., at the SM MOA Arena.
Photography KC Cruz
Additional photo from Rappler.com