Entering the UAAP Season 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons carried a lot of hype on their shoulders. During opening day, they showed that the hype was much deserved.
Behind the herculean efforts of super senior Juan Gomez de Liano and new anchor Bright Akhuetie, the Fighting Maroons completely had their way against the University of the East Red Warriors, 87-58, Saturday afternoon at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in San Juan City.
“We know what to do regardless if it’s man or zone. There’s nothing out there that we haven’t prepared for,” said third-year Fighting Maroons head coach Bo Perasol.
This was the most lopsided opening day win in the UAAP since 2003. Ironically enough, UE were able to register a 28-point opening game beatdown of UP back in July 12, 2014.
Though it’s just an opening day win, Perasol hopes that it will be a start of an excellent campaign for them.
“But this is just the start. I’m happy to get this win and we can capitalize with the momentum we got,” he added.
Juan Gomez de Liano filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. Bright Akhuetie, who last played in a collegiate-sanctioned contest 704 days ago, had 15 points and 18 rebounds.
The younger player proved to be the catalyst in the third quarter breakaway of the Fighting Maroons, scoring eight points during that frame to break the game wide-open.
It was all UP in the final stanza, as they rode their third quarter momentum. The Fighting Maroons would lead by as much as 31 points in the game, 87-56, after seven straight from Gelo Vito.
The Cebuano tandem of Jun Manzo and Paul Desiderio had 13 and 12 markers each. Desiderio shot just 5-for-18 from the field but was able to grab 10 boards – six came from crashing the board.
Alvin Pasaol, last season’s leading scorer, went just 5-for-18 from the field for 14 points.
UP will next face neighbors Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles on Wednesday, September 12, at 4:00pm. The game will take place at the SMART Araneta Coliseum. UE, on the other hand, take on the National University Bulldogs on Sunday, September 16, at 1:00pm at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
UP 87 – Gomez de Liano Ju 16, Akhuetie 15, Manzo 13, Desiderio 12, Gomez de Liano Ja 10, Vito 7, Murrell 6, Lim 2, Tungcab 2, Prado 2, Gozum 2, Dario 0, Spencer 0, Jaboneta 0, Espanola 0, Longa 0
UE 58 – Pasaol 14, Antiporda 9, Beltran 8, Manalang 6, Varilla 6, Bartolome 4, Maloles 4, Cullar 3, Conner 2, Acuno 2, Gallardo 0, Lacap 0
Quarterscores: 18-13, 33-33, 58-45, 87-58