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Games Wednesday
(Mall of Asia Arena)
2 p.m. – Ateneo vs UP
4 p.m. – UE vs La Salle

It was a struggle, says Tams coach Nash Racela.

Defending champion Far Eastern University survived plenty of obstacles yesterday.

The Tamaraws overcame a dreadful shooting, wasting a 13-point lead and a questionable ejection of one of their key players to narrowly escape past the University of the Philippines Maroons, 51-49, in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

FEU shot just 22 percent from the floor and saw its 35-22 lead in the third disappear when UP tied the count at 47-all with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Luckily for the Tamaraws, Prince Orizu and Monbert Arong came through with the biggest plays in the game that was part-eyesore and part-thrilling.

Orizu mimicked LeBron James’ Game 7 block against the Golden State Warriors by swatting Jarrell Lim’s fastbreak layup, then Arong broke the tie with a free throw followed by a tough turnaround jumper that gave FEU breathing room at 50-47, 14.6 seconds left.

Javier Gomez de Liano trimmed UP’s deficit to 50-49 on the ensuing play before FEU’s Jojo Trinidad made one of two foul shots with 4.1 ticks remaining to set the stage for Dave Moralde to play hero ball.

Unfortunately for Moralde, his running jumper at the buzzer bounced the rim twice, enabling FEU players and fans to heave a sigh of relief and won back-to-back games for the first time this season and gain a three-way tie for second with Adamson and Ateneo at 3-2.

“It was a struggle,” said FEU coach Nash Racela, who later was critical of Ron Dennison’s disqualifying foul for hitting UP’s Paul Desiderio with three minutes, saying the call was pretty harsh as the latter seemed to have played a good acting job.

Arong topscored with 14 points for the Tamaraws, who made just 20 of 65 shots for a 31 percent clip. Thankfully, the Maroons were worse, going 15 of 68 for 22 percent.

Both teams played the first quarter like they would rather enjoy the weekend with their loved ones, with UP leading 5-4 – the lowest since the league began using computerized stats in 2003.

But FEU outscored UP, 16-10, in the second to take a 20-15 halftime lead then padded the lead to 35-22 on Wendell Comboy’s triple with 1:58 to play in the third.

Desiderio and Moralde finished with 15 and 13 points, respectively, for the Maroons team that dropped to 1-4.

FEU 51 – Arong 14, Trinidad 7, Holmqvist 7, Jose 6, Comboy 6, Nunag 4, Dennison 2, Bienes 2, Ebona 2, Orizu 1, Inigo 0, Bayquin 0, Tuffin 0, Denila 0.

UP 49 – Desiderio 15, Moralde 13, Manuel 8, Dario 6, Gomez de Liano 3, Espanola 2, Prado 2, Harris 0, Webb 0, Lim 0, Vito 0, Asilum 0, Jaboneta 0, Lao 0, Romero 0.

Quarters: 4-5; 20-15; 38-30; 51-49.