UST players celebrate with Nic Cabañero after he drilled a buzzer-beater in overtime, securing a 76-75 victory over the NU Bulldogs. This win marked the Growling Tigers' first in the 17th FilOil EcoOil Preseason Cup at the Filoil EcoOil Centre on Wednesday, May 22. (Photo by Albert Earl A. Gomez/ The Varsitarian)

NIC CABAÑERO delivered in the clutch as the UST Growling Tigers escaped the NU Bulldogs in overtime, 76-75, for their first win in the Filoil EcoOil 17th Preseason Cup at the Filoil EcoOil Centre on Wednesday, May 22.

With UST down by one with 6.8 seconds left in overtime, Cabañero converted a buzzer-beating running floater to hand the Tigers the victory. The Growling Tigers lost their first two games in the tournament.

UST head coach Pido Jarencio said he intentionally designed the final play for Cabañero, to boost his confidence in leading the team for UAAP Season 87.

“Talagang para kay Nic ‘yong [play],” Jarencio said postgame. “Sabi ko naman sa kanya, ‘You have to build that winning attitude,’ kasi bugbog na ang UST sa talo ilang years na kaya siguro it’s about time.”

“Sabi ko pa sa kanya, ‘For the last three years, ikaw ang top-scorer sa team. Kailangan lang maging consistent ka, especially sa mga ganyang game is on the line, kailangan ikaw ang nagfi-finish,’ which is nakuha niya naman,” he added.

It was also Cabañero who made the crucial layup when UST was down by three, 75-72, with nine seconds left, reducing the deficit to one, 75-74.

In the fourth quarter, Cabañero’s three-pointer tied the game at 65-all with 54.8 seconds remaining, before NU’s Reinhard Jomamoy missed a potential game-winning triple for NU in the final seconds.

After outscoring the Bulldogs 25-17 in the second quarter to finish the first half with a 38-34 lead, the Tigers opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run, tallying their largest lead of the game at 47-37.

“Nagma-mature na sila (players),” Jarencio said. “Maganda ‘yong chemistry ngayon.”

Cabañero led the Tigers with 19 points, including a perfect 3-of-3 from the free-throw line, and grabbed three rebounds.

UST import Hinda Tounkara recorded a double-double with 18 points and 14 rebounds, while Christian Manaytay contributed 15 points and nine rebounds.

Newcomer Kyle Paranada also made an impact on both ends of the court, tallying five points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals.

UST’s star recruit Forthsky Padrigao was limited to three minutes of playing time due to a calf strain. He finished with two points.

For NU, import Mohammed Diassana recorded a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Reinhard Jomamoy and Ian Manansala added 15 and 12 points, respectively.

UST will next face the Ateneo Blue Eagles at the same venue on Monday, May 27, at 1 p.m.