UAAP: NU races past UST with defensive masterclass in second half

NU Bulldogs’ Kean Baclaan in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament. –MARLO CUETO/

MANILA, Philippines—National University made it look easy in its 76-65 win over University of Santo Tomas in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament at Araneta Coliseum on Saturday.

After figuring in a close first half, the Bulldogs returned to their basketball brand in the latter part of the game to pull away for the 10-2 record.

“We know the capabilities of UST but what we’ve been thinking of is how we should play and treat the game. We were kind of relaxed in the first half, we tried to convince our players that that wasn’t the way we treat a game,” said coach Jeff Napa.

“In the second half, we changed our approach so at least, somehow, we got the win plus our bench players had the mindset to contribute for the team.”

NU Bulldogs' Patrick Yu.

NU Bulldogs’ Patrick Yu. –MARLO CUETO/

NU held just a seven-point advantage at the half, 35-28, before shifting their focus on defense, hounding the Growling Tigers for 10 measly quarter points in the third to take a dominant 53-38 lead.

The Bulldogs’ defense also forced UST to fumble the ball 14 times with a lowly 35.6 percent shooting clip as a team to match.

In the fourth frame, it looked like the Growling Tigers would roar for a comeback after shaving the deficit to 11, 57-46, but PJ Palacielo stopped the momentum with a heavily contested shot in the paint.

Adding salt to the Tigers’ wounds, Kean Baclaan doubled down with a bucket plus a foul to run away for good, 62-46, with 5:47 left in the game.

Baclaan, Patrick Yu and Palacielo finished with 13, 12 and 10 points, respectively, in the NU victory.

Christian Manaytay tallied 14 points while Nic Cabañero registered a double-double with 13 markers and 10 rebounds but UST still dropped to a 1-11 card.

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