ASTRODOME, JULY 31, 2003 By Nelson Beltran (Star) Novi Sad-Yugoslavia is far from invincible after all.

FedEx exposed Novi Sad-Yugoslavia’s weaknesses on an unforgiving defense as the Express shocked the highly-regarded visiting squad, 98-81, in the second playdate of the Samsung PBA Invitational Cup at the Astrodome last night.

The Express applied a full-court pressure defense all-game long, giving the Yugoslavians a hard time to maneuver in pulling off the stirring victory.

It was FedEx’s third straight win in international play this month, counting its sweep of its two-game goodwill series in Bahrain two weeks ago. The Express walloped two Bahraini club teams by an average margin of 19 points.

So impressive was FedEx’s defensive effort that all but one of the Express got away with at least one steal.

The team went on to post a new league high 23 steals while forcing Novi Sad to commit 45 turnovers — also a new record in the league. The previous most number of steals was 20 recorded by Toyota in 1979 and the previous most number of turnovers was 40 committed by Tanduay in 1984.

Wynne Arboleda came away with seven steals, Roger Yap four, John Ferriols three, Renren Ritualo and Yancy de Ocampo two apiece and Vergel Meneses, Marvin Ortiguerra, Egay Billones, Jerry Codiñera and Omanzie Rodriguez one each. Only Jherome Ejercito failed to steal.

The Express scored 35 points off turnovers as against the Yugoslavians’ 10.

"We knew that if we got intimidated, talo na kami. Pero mukhang nabaligtad. Sila ang nabulaga," said FedEx coach Derrick Pumaren.

"Sabi ko sa mga malalaking players ko ‘you’re not big boys anymore.’ Hindi pwedeng slo-mo. We have to move and outhustle them dahil masyado silang malalaki," Pumaren added.

The Yugoslavians actually held their ground early on as they even enjoyed a 24-19 lead at the end of the first quarter.

But with the Express keeping the press, the rigors of fatigue soon took its toll on the visiting squad.

The Express surged ahead, 44-33, at halftime and enjoyed a 21-point margin in the fourth quarter before completing the rout.

The Yugoslavians, with an average height of 6-foot-6, dominated the boards, 52-37, but fared miserably on other fronts.

"We made good use of our advantage on quickness. We took them away from their comfort zone underneath the boards," said Pumaren.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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