By ADRIAN STEWART CO
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons secured the top spot in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball after a 79-57 rout of National University (NU) Bulldogs at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Sunday night, November 19.
Rookie Francis Lopez led the way with 13 points. Maodo Malick Diouf chipped in 11 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while CJ Cansino also ended up with 11 points for the Fighting Maroons.
With a 12-2 win-loss slate, the Fighting Maroons secured the no. 1 seed and a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles or the Adamson University Falcons.
“We’re looking forward to the Final Four. It’s the same. Wala kaming pinipili sa Ateneo o Adamson. We don’t compare,” Fighting Maroons head coach Goldwin Monteverde said in a post-game interview.
“Basta, iniisip namin bibigay naming lahat. Kung sinuman ang makakaharap namin, we’re gonna make sure, we’re gonna prepare for that. One thing na maganda rito, everybody is getting healthy towards the playoffs,” he added.
The Fighting Maroons’ dominance commenced after Lopez, Diouf and JD Cagulangan linked up for a 10-0 start in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs’ closest climb back was at 26-32 late in the second quarter.
From a 13-point cushion by the end of the third frame, Cansino, Lopez, Ernest Felicilda, Chicco Briones, and Mark Belmonte pummelled NU further for their largest lead at 77-52 with 4:05 left in the game.
“We knew how tough NU is as an opponent. We really needed to prepare ‘yung defense namin. At the same time, trying to improve pa rin, playing as a team on both ends,” Monteverde said.
“I felt [it] from the start, although sa gitna may mga challenge during the game. We as a team played well and we just need to sustain that,” the former NU Bullpups mentor added.
Jake Figueroa finished with a double-double of 15 points and 10 rebounds, while Jolo Manansala contributed 10 points and seven rebounds as the Bulldogs dropped to third spot, facing the no. 2 ranked De La Salle University Green Archers in the semis.
UP 79 — Lopez 13, Diouf 11, Cansino 11, Felicilda 9, Torculas 7, Cagulangan 6, Gonzales 6, Alarcon 4, Pablo 4, Belmonte 3, Torres 3, Briones 2, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0, Alter 0, Gagate 0.
NU 57 — Figueroa 15, Manansala 10, John 7, Yu 6, Baclaan 3, Yu 3, Malonzo 2, Enriquez 2, Jumamoy 2, Palacielo 2, Gulapa 2, Padrones 0, Parks 0, Galinato 0, Delos Reyes 0.
Quarterscores: 23-13, 42-30, 58-45, 79-57./ASC, WDJ