NIGERIAN import Bright Akhuetie finished with 44 points on top of 17 rebounds as the University of Perpetual Help System DALTA Altas thrashed the College of Saint Benilde Blazers, 77-69, on Friday to gain share of the top spot in the 91st National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball tournament at The Arena in San Juan City.
The 6’9 Akhuetie also posted two assists, two steals and two blocked shots to move the Altas at the top of the standing with five-peat champion San Beda College Red Lions. Both teams are bearing identical 2-0 win-loss records. The Altas’ first victory was over the Lyceum Pirates, 70-61 on Tuesday.
In the other game, last year’s runner-up Arellano University Chiefs escaped with an 80-78 win over the Lyceum of the Philippines Pirates.
Jiovani Jalalon, Zachary Nicholls and Michael Salado combined forces to notch 46 points leading the Chiefs to victory. Arellano absorbed a 61-78 loss to the Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers on June 27.
The Chiefs enjoyed a 19 points lead, 51-32, late in the second quarter but the advantage was neutralized by a 20-7 run by Lyceum’s Joseph Gabayne, rookie Jesper Ayaay and Shaquille Oswald Alanes.
“It was really tough during the opening day. My players have somewhat a kind of what we called opening day jitters. It’s good now that we were able to bounce back. At least 1-1 na kami,” said Arellano coach Jerry Codiñera.
Lyceum’s blistering rally cut down the gap to just four points, 76-80, with still 1:05 remaining. After a miss by Jalalon in the return play, rookie Ayaay executed a pass to Gabayne underneath the basket allowing the Pirates to bring the score to 78-80, with only 28.3 seconds to go.
The Pirates have the chance to tie the game but missed three times until a failed drive by Gabayne that allowed the Chiefs to escape with the win.
With the setbacks, both the St. Benilde Blazers and the Lyceum Pirates dropped to the bottom of the standings carrying similar 0-2 cards.
Jalalon, a Philippine national team standout in the recent Southeast Asian Games in Singapore, led the Chiefs with 20 points, six rebounds and 12 assists, Nicholls finished with 16 points and Salado 10 points.
Gabayne and Alanes led the Pirates with 20 points apiece while Ayaay contributed 10 and Jean Victor Ngudjol eight.