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Bulldogs return to .500 in wire-to-wire win over Maroons

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After falling to 0-3, the National University Bulldogs have found their bearing while the Maroons, who had a 2-0 start, are falling.

The defending champions National University Bulldogs gave the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons its third straight loss with a huge fourth quarter that powered them to a 68-52 win at the SM Mall of Asia Arena early Saturday afternoon.

It was a slow affair for both teams as a poor shooting display combined their scores for only three points in nearly four minutes into the game. UP held a minimal 3-2 lead after a triple by Jarell Lim but was quickly erased by the Bulldogs. Tough defensive pressure limited scoring by the Maroons as they were silenced for five minutes offensively in the middle of the quarter. After the horrendous shooting in the first minutes, the two teams slowly find their stride as the Bulldogs built an 8-point lead just before Jett Manuel chopped it with a triple before the first quarter buzzer.

Scoring slowed down in the second quarter with the number of fouls committed by both teams. The number of free throw trips increased wherein NU had six more points at the end of first half. Diego Dario made back to back layups to trim the lead down to one at 24-23 with 4:35 left in the second. As UP played zone defense, NU made them pay anchored by a sizzling ending to the first half by Gelo Alolino as the point guard made four triples in his team’s last 14 points to create a 38-27 separation at the break.

A good exchange of scoring favored NU to hold onto their lead as Med Salim scored his team’s first seven points of the second half. No team had clear advantage in terms of momentum as every basket was answered by the other. Jett Manuel scored seven straight for UP but the bench players responded for the Bulldogs. NU was scoreless in the last 3 minutes of the period but the Maroons could only score two markers as the Bulldogs entered the final canto up by eight.

Alolino, Aroga and Neypes combined for eight unanswered points for the Bulldogs as they ballooned their distance against UP. Aroga was a force down low as he altered the UP slashers while also corralling the boards. Dario made the first field goal of Maroons in the last period by the 5:25 mark but his team had an overall struggle offensive-wise against the tough Bulldog defense. UP scored only nine points in the payoff period as NU maintained its double-digit gap for the entire 10-minute stretch en route to the win.

“We knew going in that this will be a defensive battle as shown in the first quarter,” winning head coach Eric Altamirano said after the game. “Fortunately, we were consistent with our defense all throughout that game and we were able to lockdown on their shooters.”

He added that “we know that we are not good on offense but Gelo [Alolino] gave us confidence, especially in the third quarter.” Even with the win though, Altamirano is still not satisfied with the team’s performance. “Three straight but we still have a long way to go. We need to manage our time well before we face FEU.”

Smart Elite ambassador Gelo Alolino led all scorers with 16 points. Alolino was just 5/14 from the field but was able to connect on 50% of his triples, 4/8. Alfred Aroga played huge as well in notching a monster double-double with 12 points and 22 boards, a season high.

For the Diliman cagers, Smart Elite ambassador Jett Manuel notched 16 points as well. Manuel shot a poor 5/14 from the field. Paul Desiderio was the only other Maroon to score in double-figures with 10 markers but also had a horrendous shooting day in shooting just 38%.

The NU Bulldogs (3-3) will have a ten-day break before facing the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday, October 7 at 4:00pm in a rematch of last season’s finals while the UP Fighting Maroons (2-4) look to regain their winning form as they face the Adamson Soaring Falcons on Sunday, October 4 at 12:00nn. The former will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum while the latter is set at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.

The Scores:
NU (68) – Alolino 16, Aroga 12, Salim 9, Tansingco 9, Neypes 7, Javelona 6, Diputado 4, Alejandro 2, Celda 2, Abatayo 1, Javillonar 0, Yu 0.
UP (52) – Manuel 16, Desiderio 10, Dario 8, Lim 5, Asilum 4, Gallarza 2, Jaboneta 2, Longa 2, Moralde 2, Amar 1, Harris 0, Juruena 0, Kone 0, Prado 0, Vito 0.
Quarterscores: 19-12, 38-27, 51-43, 68-52.

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