Maroon ballers earn crucial wins vs FEU as Final Four race heats up

The UP Fighting Maroons showed no signs of rust when they returned to the hard court this week after an eleven-day break.

Both the men’s and women’s squads chalked decisive wins against the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws to keep themselves on track for their respective Final Four bids in the UAAP Season 85 collegiate basketball tournaments.

Lucky seven 

Riding a six-game win streak, the UP Men’s Basketball Team (UP MBT) had little intention of slowing down as it made quick work of the FEU Tamaraws, 73-59, on Nov. 17 at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. 

State U cruised to its 10th win of the season, thanks in large part to James Spencer’s career-high 19 points off a 57% shooting accuracy beyond the arc.

Playing without key player Terrence Fortea who suffered an ankle injury in training, UP doubled their offensive efforts early on as Gerry Abadiano, Harold Alarcon and JD Cagulangan conspired for an early 15-point advantage over FEU.

Spencer was nothing short of impressive in the first half as well, downing 10 straight baskets for the Maroons to keep the Tamaraws reeling, 43-32.

Both teams played hardball by the start of the third frame as FEU found their defensive rhythm to keep UP’s offense in check.

Although the green-and-gold forced an early deadlock, the Maroons powered through in the next sequences to establish yet another double-digit lead, 58-42.

On its way to victory, UP maintained a comfortable 14-point cushion against FEU, an advantage that ultimately proved too steep to cut.

Malick Diouf backstopped Spencer’s inspired output with a double-double of 11 points and 20 rebounds. 

Meanwhile, Jorick Bautista produced 12 points for the Tamaraws, which absorbed its seventh loss in 11 games.

Now only one win away from securing a twice-to-beat incentive in the Final Four, UP MBT head coach Goldwin Monteverde reminded his players of the importance of sustaining their in-game momentum.

“We just need to work on being consistent. That’s one part nung game namin na dapat namin bigyan ng pansin. We can’t play in spurts. We need to be consistent offensively and defensively,” Monteverde said.

Keeping the intensity high

When needed the most, Christie Bariquit came through for the UP Women’s Basketball Team (UP WBT) as they grabbed a crucial victory at the expense of the hapless FEU Lady Tamaraws, 73-56, on Nov. 13 at the UST Quadricentennial Pavillion.

Bariquit shot 58.33% from the field for 19 points to help UP secure the victory and remain in contention for a Final Four berth.

The Lady Maroons launched a merciless shooting spree in the first frame, generating as many as 16 points to hold off FEU’s scoring of just one point. 

The second frame saw UP in a comfortable 23-point cushion as Rhea Sanchez steered the squad with five and Acrissa Maw with four at halftime.

However, UP’s momentum faltered in the third quarter as FEU cut the deficit to only eight, courtesy of Mj Manguiat and Kyla Go chiming in six points apiece. 

But the girls in maroon-and-white quickly regrouped in the final salvo, with Bariquit downing back-to-back baskets for a 14-5 run. 

Christie Bariquit powers through the FEU Lady Tamaraws’ defense during their Nov. 13 matchup. Photo by UAAP Season 85 Media Team

With three games left in the elimination round, UP WBT head coach Paul Ramos underscored the importance of winning the match to their semifinal bid.

“We’re trying to stay alive in the competition. As everybody knows, we want to get in the Final Four, so each of the [remaining] games is very crucial to us,” Ramos said.

Princess Jumuad paced the Tamaraws in the loss with 12 points as FEU stumbled to a 2-9 record.

The road to the Final Four continues this upcoming weekend as the Fighting Maroons figure in an important matchup against the DLSU Green Archers.

UP MBT QUARTER SCORES: 22-18, 43-32, 58-42, 73-59.

UP WBT QUARTER SCORES: 21-5, 39-16, 53-41, 73-56.