University of the Philippines (UP) brought it’s A-game on Saturday to shock defending champion De La Salle University, 98-87, and grab a share of the second spot in Season 80 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons weathered Ben Mbala’s early explosion and came out firing in the final quarter to book their first win against the Green Archers since the first round of Season 78.
Paul Desiderio scored a career-high 30 points to negate Mbala’s own personal-best of 34 but UP had more contributions from its players to tie their victims at 3-1, leaving Ateneo the only unbeaten squad in the tournament with 3-0.
Jun Marzo added 17, including five in the Fighting Maroons’ crucial 11-4 run to put the game away, 90-79, under two minutes left in the game.
“Before the game, somebody forwarded me a Tweet na ‘Walang imposible sa taong naniniwala.’ That’s why nahiya ako sa players ko because they believe they can win this game. They can compete against the powerhouse teams like La Salle,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol.
“We were able to execute the things that we plan. And everybody contributed in this game,” he added.
Andrei Caracut and Ricci Rivero contributed 15 and 12 markers, respectively for La Salle, which was outscored by UP in the fourth period, 22-32.
In the first game, Far Eastern University (FEU) needed a strong start in the fourth period to deal University of Santo Tomas (UST) its fourth straight loss, 78-65, and even its win-loss mark to 2-2.
Holding a slim 49-48 after the third quarter, Arvin Tolentino fired back-to-back triples to ignite a momentum-swinging 14-0 assault resulting in a 63-48 advantage with seven minutes left in the game.
The Growling Tigers never recovered from those blows and fell to 0-4.
“It’s hard to get wins in the UAAP. We have to grind it out. We have to work hard for it and it this game it showed,” said FEU head coach Olsen Racela, who drew 15 points each from Tolentino and Ron Dennison.
“We came out flat. The intensity, energy and effort were not there and it happened in the second half. We were able to match UST’s intensity and we were able to surpass it and that turned things around,” Racela added.
Jeepy Faundo led all scorers with 16 points to go along with his 11 rebounds for UST, which led as high as 10, 22-12, early in the game but failed to sustain it all throughout the match.
Meanwhile, the UAAP allowed UP’s Rob Ricafort to suit up against La Salle on Saturday and probably the rest of the first round after the player got a temporary restraining order (TRO) on Friday at the Manila RTC Branch 19.
UAAP executive director and basketball commissioner lawyer Rebo Saguisag said the league is duty bound to follow the TRO, which has a 20-day period, but explained to UP the repercussions of fielding Ricafort in that stretch.
“I will not restrain him from playing but they (UP) are made aware that if they do so, they will assume the risk on how the court will rule on the issue with finality,” said Saguisag, referring to the possible forfeiture of the games that Ricafort will play with.
“They are well-advised of concomitant risk of fielding Ricafort. It’s the team’s option and we will not stop them,” he added.
Ricafort was ruled ineligible, as he will turn 25 on January next year. The UAAP rule states that the player must not be 25 during the UAAP season, which ends on June 30, 2018.
Last season, National University’s Matthew Aquino also secured a TRO to play for the Bulldogs after the board questioned his eligibility for not complying the one-year residency rule for transferee.
Curiously, the UAAP did not forfeit the games of Aquino played with the Bulldogs as the TRO lapsed and NU no longer fielded him.
Saguisag said he’s not sure if the same treatment will be applied on Ricafort’s case as there are also others waiting for the final decision of the court in the case.
FEU 78 – Dennison 15, Tolentino 15, Parker 8, Tuffin 8, Ebona 6, Inigo 6, Comboy 5, Orizu 5, Ramirez 5, Escoto 3, Stockton 2, Cani 0, Trinidad 0, Nunag 0, Bayquin 0
UST 65 – Faundo 16, Sta. Ana 11, Basibas 8, Escalambre 8, Akomo 6, Huang 4, Lee 3, De Guzman 3, Macasaet 2, Arana 2, Kwawukumey 2, Garcia 0, Caunan 0, Soriano 0
QUARTER SCORES: 11-16, 31-36, 49-48, 78-65
SECOND GAME BOX SCORES
UP 98 – Desiderio 30, Manzo 17, Gomez de Liano Ju 10, Gomez de Liano Ja 10, Lim 6, Ouattara 6, Jaboneta 6, Dario 5, Romero 4, Ricafort 2, Prado 2, Harris 0, Vito 0, Lao 0
DLSU 87 – Mbala 34, Caracut 15, Rivero R 12, Rivero P 9, Melecio 5, Montalbo 5, Santillan 5, Paraiso 2, Tratter 0, Go 0
QUARTER SCORES: 18-27, 47-43, 66-65, 98-87