University of the Philippines’ depth proved to be too much for National University, racking up its third straight win in the UAAP Season 86 Men’s Basketball Tournament while handing the latter its first loss by way of a 78-60 victory on Saturday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
Francis Lopez, the athletic, 6-foot-6 rookie, was at the forefront of the Fighting Maroons’ attack, finishing with 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block, while going a plus-34 when was on the floor.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Malick Diouf and CJ Cansino added 12 apiece with the former also grabbing 13 rebounds, helping the Fighting Maroons climb to 3-0 and the solo lead early in the season.
It was another impressive win for the Fighting Maroons, who also defeated Adamson University (68-51) and University of the East (84-69) to start their redemption bid after a second place finish a season ago.
“This is a good win for us in terms of early on yung puwede namin i-grow as a team,” said coach Goldwin Monteverde. “As much as, you know, we’re really happy for this win, we have to keep level like third game pa lang ng season ‘to. We just have to keep on improving pa rin.”
Figuring in a low-scoring affair early in the contest, UP turned it up in the third canto, firing 28 points to turn a 30-25 lead into a 58-45 cushion.
Behind the efforts of Kean Baclaan, the Bulldogs clawed their way, cutting the lead down to six, 60-54, with over seven minutes remaining. However, the Fighting Maroons would respond with a blistering run, with Diouf, Cansino, and Lopez providing the key baskets to fend off the Bulldogs.
“He’s an athletic guy, he’s talented but ever since magkasama kami, nakita ko yung value niya as a team player,” said Monteverde of Lopez, who was averaging 7.0 points and 8.0 rebounds in their first four games. “Seeing the floor, getting everybody involved at the same time in offense and defense — ang laki ng impact niya sa amin.”
Harold Alarcon produced 10 points and JD Cagulangan contributed eight points, six rebounds and five assists for UP.
It was also an emotional game for UP’s Janjan Felicilda and Reyland Torres as they faced their former teammates for the first time in a UAAP setting.
Felicilda logged 15 minutes and tallied three points, two rebounds, and two assists while Torres produced eight points and two rebounds in 12 minutes of action.
UP will look to extend their streak to four when it takes on Far Eastern University on Wednesday, 11 a.m. at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Meanwhile, third-year forward Jake Figueroa paced the Bulldogs, who fell to 2-1, with 13 points and 10 rebounds.
Senegalese big man Omar John and sophomore PJ Palacielo chipped in 11 and 10 markers, respectively.
Baclaan, who was averaging 9.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 7.5 assists, and 2.0 steals prior to the game, was held down to nine points on 3-of-10 shooting from the field with three assists against three turnovers.
The Bulldogs will aim for a bounce back against University of Santo Tomas also on Wednesday at 3 p.m.
UP (78) – Lopez 14, Diouf 12, Cansino 12, Alarcon 10, Cagulangan 8, Torres 8, Abadiano 8, Felicilda 3, Pablo 2, Belmonte 1, Torculas 0, Alter 0, Gagate 0, Gonzales 0.
NU (60) – Figueroa 13, John 11, Palacielo 10, Baclaan 9, Yu 5, Malonzo 5, Jumamoy 4, Lim 2, Enriquez 1, Padrones 0, Manansala 0, Casinillo 0.
Quarterscores: 9-13, 30-25, 58-45, 78-60
Article by UAAP Media; Photo by Mary Cu