MANILA, Philippines—Amid a high-intensity and physical encounter, College of St. Benilde big man Will Gozum reminded the rest of the league that he is still the reigning NCAA MVP.
It took him 13 games but Gozum finally found his MVP form in the Blazers’ 84-81 victory over Jose Rizal University in the NCAA Season 99 men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday at San Juan Arena.
With defenders swarming him left and right, the graduating Gozum kept his composure to finish with a season-high 27 points on top of five rebounds.
“With me, I’m just thinking of basketball and when it got physical, my coaches just reminded me to calm down, focus and have fun with the game,” said Gozum, who led Benilde to its fifth victory in a row.
Gozum also had a pair of blocks and none bigger than his last rejection when he denied JRU’s Joshua Guiab’s potential game-tying triple at the buzzer.
“I was just composed on the defensive end there. I didn’t want us to go to OT, I just wanted us to win. When I blocked him (Guiab) that’s when I got the confidence that we got it (win),” said the 6-foot-4 Gozum.
Before Tuesday’s game, Gozum had been playing inconsistently for the Blazers, posting norms of just 12.9 points and 6.8 rebounds per game—a letdown from his MVP averages of 16.9 points and 9.8 boards last season.
Gozum’s efforts certainly didn’t go unnoticed.
“[Our] defense has been pretty good. Will Gozum played good basketball so he was huge for us. it’s been okay, we stuck to our strengths, focused on our game plan and did whatever we prepared for,” said the top coach.
“More or less, they’ve been listening to us so it’s been working for us.”
Gozum tries to sustain his play when Benilde figures in a showdown with top team Lyceum on Friday.