THE University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons compounded on the woes of the National University Bulldogs in UAAP Season 81, surviving, 89-88, in league action on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Fresh from a big win over De La Salle University last time around, UP came out with much spring on its thrust against NU before being tested in the end and holding on for the win for its second straight win to improve to 3-3 in the ongoing University Athletic Association of the Philippines season while sending the Bulldogs (1-5) to their fifth defeat in a row.
The Maroons had control of the opening half, banking on a total attack, to take the first quarter, 26-20, before continuing to hold sway, 47-40, by the halftime break.
In the third period, UP sustained its steady form, outscoring NU, 10-4, led by Jun Manzo, in the first four minutes and a half to stretch its lead to 13 points, 57-44.
The Bulldogs tried to rally back after, behind JV Gallego and Shaun Ildefonso, but the Maroons would maintain control, 70-62, heading into the final frame.
The two teams jockeyed hard to start the fourth canto.
Ildefonso and Issa Gaye helped NU to a 7-3 blast to narrow the gap at 73-69 with 7:50 to go.
Juan Gomez de Liano, Paul Desiderio, and Bright Akhuetie though kept UP’s head afloat with the team holding an 85-75 lead halfway into the frame.
The count stood at 85-79 entering the last two minutes before Akhuetie made it an eight-point cushion, 87-79, with a putback with 1:39 left.
A basket by Troy Rike and two free throws by Ildefonso in the next 40 seconds pulled the Bulldogs to within four points, 87-83.
Akhuetie gave UP another six-point lead, 89-86, with two freebies only to be answered by Dave Ildefonso with a triple with 23 ticks to go to make it, 89-86.
A basket by Shaun Ildefonso with seven seconds to go pushed NU to one point, 89-88, after which it fouled Javi Gomez de Liano, who missed his two free throws, opening the window for the Bulldogs.
Off the rebound the Bulldogs had a chance to win the game but Gallego passed up at the last moment on a potential game-winning layup to preserve the win for the Maroons.
Akhuetie led UP with 21 points followed by Juan Gomez de Liano with 20.
Shaun Ildefonso paced NU with 20 points.
“A positive way at looking at this is we learned while winning, which is better than learning and losing. We still have a lot to learn obviously but we take this,” said UP coach Bo Perasol after their win. — MAS Murillo