NU ends a 7-year Final Four drought in beating UST

NU ends seven-year semifinal drought. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ RUSSELL PALMA

Games On Wednesday(Mall of Asia Arena)11 a.m. — UST vs UP1 p.m. — NU vs DLSU3 p.m. — ADMU VS UE6:30 p.m. — FEU vs AdU

NATIONAL University (NU) finally broke out from its leash, ending a seven-year Final Four drought with a 67-57 come-from-behind win over University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Skipper John Lloyd Clemente unleashed 19 points and five rebounds including the dagger triple in the last minute as the Bulldogs listed their fourth straight win and ninth overall in 12 matches to join reigning champion and pacesetting University of the Philippines to the semis.

Omar John (12) and Kean Baclaan (10) backstopped Mr. Clemente in NU’s big triumph that in the process created a little breathing room from first-game winner Ateneo (8-3) in a wild race for a Top-Two finish that comes with a twice-to-beat advantage.

“We survived a gritty UST team. They played their hearts out. Good thing was, we came back in the second half. We regrouped and earned this tough win,” said coach Jeff Napa, who rushed straight to the Smart Araneta Coliseum for the PBA game of Northport, where he’s an assistant coach.

NU, the UAAP’s revelation team this season with a stellar campaign including handing UP’s lone loss so far, trailed early at 25-36 but regained its groove after the break by limiting Santo Tomas to eight points in the third.

The Bulldogs figured in a dogfight with the Tigers since then before uncorking a 12-0 run to transform a 52-54 deficit to a 64-54 lead for the win.

Earlier, Ange Kouame hauled down a 20-14 double-double as Ateneo clawed back from 19 points to earn at least a playoff in the Final Four and stay in hunt for a twice-to-beat advantage with an 8-3 card.

With the meltdown, FEU took a toll on its own semis bid as it fell to 4-8 while Santo Tomas crashed out of contention with its 10th straight loss at 1-10. — John Bryan Ulanday

The Scores:

First Game

ATENEO 71 — Kouame 20, Padrigao 13, Andrade 9, Ildefonso 8, Garcia 8, Ballungay 5, Koon 4, Lazaro 2, Daves 2, Chiu 0, Quitevis 0.

FEU 65 — Torres 19, Gonzales 15, Sleat 10, Tchuente 8, Anonuevo 8, Bagunu 3, Bautista 2, Alforque 0, Sajonia 0, Sandagon 0, Tempra 0.

Quarterscores: 14-21, 27-41, 49-54, 71-65.

Second Game

NU 67 — Clemente 19, John 12, Baclaan 10, Malonzo 6, Manansala 6, Figueroa 4, Palacielo 4, Enriquez 3, Galinato 3, Yu 0, Mahinay 0, Tibayan 0, Padrones 0, Minerva 0.

UST 57 — Cabanero 20, Faye 11, Pangilinan 8, Garing 6, Calimag 5, Manaytay 4, Duremdes 3, Manalang 0.

Quarterscores: 11-20, 29-36, 46-44, 67-57.