By Mikhail Franz Flores
The UP Fighting Maroons were two free throws away from their first victory in the season but Dionisio Hipolito simply did not make it.
Hipolito missed a pair of crucial charities off a foul from Melvin Baloran with 2.4 seconds left in the clock as the National University Bulldogs thumped UP on Saturday with a pulsating 61-59 victory in their UAAP Season 73 basketball game at the Araneta Coliseum.
“I just closed my eyes and hoped it would miss,” said NU coach Eric Gonzales as his Bulldogs squad escaped UP’s late surge with only a minute down in the final period.
Joseph Terso sank his lone basket in the game from beyond-the-arc and gave NU a 60-53 edge with 51.1 seconds left in the clock but Alvin Padilla and Mike Silungan notched two straight three pointers to cut the lead to one, 60-59.
Terso missed two crucial free throws after drawing a foul with 10 seconds left in the clock that gave UP both the possession and the chance to win their first game in the season. However, Hipolito failed to convert the free throws.
The Maroons are still winless in 10 outings as they are moving closer to tying their dismal 0-14 win-loss record in 2007 while NU moved up to fifth place behind La Salle and kept their Final Four hopes alive.
“We’re just playing one game at a time,” Gonzales said as he added that he treats each game as a stepping stone in their run to the Final Four.
Emmanuel Mbe finished with another double-double for NU as he registered 21 points and grabbed 16 rebounds while Mike Silungan and Alvin Padilla scored 17 and 13 points respectively for the Maroons.
UP will go up against third-seeded Adamson University on August 26 at the Araneta Coliseum.