by Jason Mercene
After starting their Season 78 campaign on the right foot, the University of the Philippines (UP) absorbed its third straight setback against Season 77 defending champions National University (NU), 52-68, in the UAAP men’s basketball wars at the Mall of Asia Arena, Saturday.
Jett Manuel paced the Diliman-based squad with 16 markers while Paul Desiderio contributed for 10 points and six boards off the bench.
The Maroons started the season with a 2-0 record, tallying back-to-back wins against University of the East and De La Salle University. They fell short, however, in their next three games against University of Santo Tomas, Far Eastern University, and now NU.
“They prepared for us,” said Manuel when asked about the defensive set displayed by NU.
Manuel added, “Coach Eric (Altamirano) is really a good coach, he prepares for all the teams,” referring to the Bulldogs head coach.
With UP down by just one midway in the second quarter, NU’s Gelo Alolino caught fire as he knocked four consecutive treys to erect a commanding 11-point lead going to halftime, 27-38.
Alolino led the Sampaloc-based team in scoring, finishing with 16 points.
The Fighting Maroons managed to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to eight entering the final canto, 43-51. But Alfred Aroga nailed back-to-back jumpers to spearhead an 8-0 bomb, as the Bulldogs pulled away and kept the Maroons at bay for good.
Cameroonian Aroga who stands 6’7 proved to be too much for the Maroons as he registered double-double figures with 12 points and 22 rebounds.
“We knew coming into this game, it will be a defensive game, knowing UP plays a very good defense,” said Altamirano as his squad improved to 3-3 after losing its first three games.
He added, “I think all throughout the game we were consistent on our defense, we were able to lockdown their shooters.”
While both squads shot below 40 percent, NU was more aggressive in the free-throw line. They made 21 out of 30 charities against UP’s 8 out of 14.
“One game at a time,” said Manuel as the Maroons will set their eyes on their last two assignments in the first round. “We’re learning right now, and we have to move on quick to the next game against Ateneo.”
UP will try to snap their losing skid against the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles on Wednesday, 2 p.m., at the Mall of Asia Arena.
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.
Quarter scores: 19-12; 38-27; 51-43; 68-52