by Waylon Galvez
National University (NU) will not play in the Final Four, but the Bulldogs managed to end their campaign on a positive note after beating the University of East (EU), 79-71, in the 81st UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City .
Troy Rike, who averaged over five points per game, scored 17 points from the bench and grabbed 13 rebounds, while Senegal center Issa Gaye contributed 12 points for NU, who completed a double elimination with a 4-10 record under coach Mike Jarin.
This marked the third consecutive season when the Bulldog missed the semifinals, or since the 78th season in 2015 when NU – as the fourth seeded team – lost to the University of Santo Tomas in the Final Four.
Two of the Bulldogs' four wins came at the expense of the Warriors they defeated, 88-61, in the first round on 13 October.
The EU ended the season with a 1-13 record under first-year coach Joe Silva. Their single victory came against Far Eastern University Tamaraws, 90-65, 30 September.
The EU returned from the Final Four for the ninth time. The last time the EU was in the semifinals was in 2009 when it made it all the way to the final but lost to Ateneo, 2-1, in the best three final series.
Shaun Ildedonso and Dave Yu scored six points each when the Bulldogs led the Warriors, 21-17, after the first 10 minutes of the match. Jumper by Gaye gave the Bulldogs a lead 27-17 with 8:26 remaining in the second quarter.
The EU rallied behind Pasaol's five straight points – layup and three-point shot – which cut the deficit to 27-22.
However, a three-point game by Gaye and a jumping kick by Troy Rike put the Bulldog up again with 10 points, 32-22, with 5:41 remaining in the second period. Mohammad Salim beat the bell which gave the NU a 44-32 lead at the break.
Despite other setbacks from the EU, Alvin Pasaol has made history with an average score of 24.69 points per game – the highest for local since 2003 when Terrence Romeo's FEU star averaged 22.2 points in the 2013 match.
Pasaol, which finished with 20 points, failed to surpass De La Salle Ben Mbala's 24 points on average per game last season.
NU 79 – Rike 17, Gaye 12, Ildefonso D. 9, Ildefonso S. 9, Aquino 7, Yu 6, Salim 6, Diputado 5, Galinato 4, Clemente 2, Tibayan 2, Morido 0, Joson 0, Malonzo 0.
UE 71 – Pasaol 20, Conner 19, Acuno 11, Varilla 10, Manalang 7, Bartolome 2, Guion 2, Cullar 0, Maloles 0, Gallardo 0, Strait 0.
Quarter: 21-17, 44-32, 58-46, 79-71.
Tags: Dave Yu, Issa Gaye, Mohammad Salim, National University, Troy Rike, UAAP, UAAP basketball, EU, Universitas Santo Tomas, East University