It took six years but the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons avoided a late game meltdown and go 2-0 as the Fighting Maroons upset the De La Salle University Green Archers, 71-66, Wednesday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.
The cagers from Diliman quickly started with a 7-2 blast to open the game. Third-year center Andrew Harris anchored UP’s interior defense as the Green Archers were forced to jumpshots. Jeron Teng cut the lead with his aggressive drives midway through the quarter 7-5. Unfortunately for the Green Archers, they could not muster a field in the final 3:34 of the opening quarter while the UP offense was on fire with Paul Desiderio and JR Gallarza knocking down open jumpers while rookie a Piero Longa three-pointer gave UP a 16-10 lead. Back-to-back conversions by Smart Elite ambassador Prince Rivero ended the quarter with UP up by just two points 16-14.
The UP onslaught continued in the second quarter with UP clogging the passing lanes to force their opponents into turnovers. On offense, Longa continued his hot shooting in scoring five points in the quarter while Desiderio and Manuel bombarded DLSU with jumpshots. Teng was the only bright spot for the Archers in the first half with Thomas Torres not converting even on open shots. The Fighting Maroons held an imposing 13 point lead, 41-38, to enter halftime.
Three-point shooting by the Fighting Maroons helped the Rensy Bajar-mentored squad gain the games biggest lead 54-37 with 2:04 remaining in the third canto. Game 1 hero Gelo Vito, spitfire guard Diego Dario, and Desiderio helped during that run. Caracut and Rivero were able to cut the lead to 12, 54-42 to enter the final quarter.
The Fighting Maroons were able to quell every rally that the Taft cagers gave during the fourth quarter. However, Coach Juno Sauler had one last trick in his book. With four minutes remaining, Sauler switched to a press that startled the Maroons. After a Manuel fadeaway with 3:42 remaining that gave UP a 64-51 lead. Thomas Torres and Rivero were able to cut the lead to 65-59 as UP had a hard time to even cross the half court due to the defense. A Jeron Teng layup cut the lead further to just four with 45.9 to go. Fortunately for the hosts, they were able to outrebound the La Salle frontline down the stretch while free throw conversions by Harris and Henry Asilum sealed the game.
“Ang sarap!” a speechless Rensy Bajar said after the game. “Yung feeling namin ay di ko madescribe.” Team captain Jet Manuel added that everything was perfect for the game,” the coaching staff and the team, ang ganda ng performance.” The UP Fighting Maroons are not getting ahead of themselves, even with a 2-0 start, with Bajar saying “we’re taking it game-by-game. One game at a time.”
The UP Fighting Maroons were led by Smart Elite ambassador Jet Manuel’s 14 huge points. He was 6/16 from the field and added five rebounds, five assists and a steal. Paul Desiderio complimented the offense with 13 points while rookie guard Piero Longa added ten markers, with two triples.
Prince Rivero led the Archers with 15 points and 11 boards. He was 6/8 from the field but missed crucial free throws down the stretch. Rookie guard Andrei Caracut added 12 points. UP was able to limit Jeron Teng to just 10 points on a horrendous 4/12 shooting.
As a team, UP shot 41.27% from the field compared to the horrible 36% of DLSU. In addition the Green Archers were just 3/24 from downtown.
The UP Fighting Maroons have stringed together their first back-to-back wins since September 3, 2006 while the De La Salle Green Archers fall to 1-1. The Fighting Maroons (2-0) will try to go for their third straight win against the UST Growling Tigers on Sunday, September 13 at 2:00 pm while the Green Archers face the FEU Tamaraws on the same day at 4:00pm. Both games will be played at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
UP (71) – Manuel 14, Desiderio 13, Longa 10, Dario 9, Asilum 7, Moralde 5, Harris 4, Vito 3, Gallarza 2, Amar 2, Prado 2, Juruena 0, Kone 0
DLSU (66) – Rivero 15, Caracut 12, Teng 10, Torres 8, Sargent 8, Perkins 5, Go 5, Muyang 3, Navarro 0, Tratter 0
Quarters: 16-14, 41-28,54-42, 71-66.
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