UP snags twin victories, moves closer to twice-to-beat edge

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons captured double victories in their penultimate matchups in the second round yesterday, Nov. 15, to strengthen their bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the UAAP Season 86 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments.

The UP Men’s Basketball Team (UP MBT) now sits solo at the top of the standings with an 11-2 record, while the UP Women’s Basketball Team (UP WBT) continues to share second place at 10-3 with the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigresses. 

Repeated dominance

In a repeat performance of their first-round match, the  UP MBT displayed dominance anew after crushing the hapless UST Growling Tigers, 86-61, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

UP’s bench lineup proved to be too deep for the España-based squad as Fighting Maroon 6-foot-6 guard Chicco Briones finished with 14 points, four rebounds and a steal to lead a 73-point bench outing. 

“Showing up over there and getting my confidence up, it’s a key factor for the upcoming games and, of course, it [can add up] to my confidence,” Briones said during the post-game interview. 

Cyril Gonzales also contributed 10 markers, while rookie Mark Belmonte and team captain CJ Cansino contributed 9 points each to secure UP’s third straight win since their loss against De La Salle University (DLSU).

Even though State U got off to a slow start after trailing 2-9 early in the first quarter, the Fighting Maroons quickly rallied back with Francis Lopez and Gonzales conniving to spark a 22-9 run and snatch a six-point lead entering the second quarter.

From hereon, the Fighting Maroons never looked back as first-year wing Briones fired 8 points in the second quarter en route to a 44-32 UP lead, setting the stage for an eventual rout.

The maroon shirts continued to assert themselves on both ends of the floor as they locked down the Growling Tigers’ offense and got hot beyond the arc, pushing UP’s cushion by as much as 29 points.

The Growling Tigers, who fell to a 1-12 record, were led by third-year sensation Nic Cabañero and key big man Christian Manaytay with 14 points apiece.

Staying ahead 

After falling short in their loss against the DLSU Lady Archers, the UP WBT returned to the win column after taking down the University of the East (UE) Lady Warriors, 70-55, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. 

State U stayed ahead of the winless red shirts right from the get-go, ending the second quarter with an eight-point cushion, 36-28.

With the maroon shirts controlling the pace of the game, UE’s Kamba Kone and Trixie Burgos pulled off heroic attempts to trim UP’s biggest lead of the game at 54-30.

Despite the duo’s 14-point production, State U remained on top with a balanced offense led by Kaye Pesquera, Rizza Lozada and Achrissa Maw to replicate their round one victory against the red shirts.

UP WBT’s Achrissa Maw’s one-on-one against UE’s Dianne Pedregosa at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. Photo by the UAAP Media Team

State U power forward Maw led the charge with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals followed by Filipino-French rookie Louna Ozar’s 11 points and seven assists. 

“It’s a team collaboration [and] effort so hindi siya ganoon ka-big deal sa’kin,” Maw said during the post-game interview. “Naka-focus agad kami to the next big game.”

Center Favour Onoh also filled up the stat sheets with 9 markers, 17 rebounds and three steals.

The UP WBT seeks to maintain their composure as they face seven-year defending champions and current top-seeded team National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs on Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Meanwhile, the men’s team will have their own matchup against NU to finish the elimination round on a winning note on Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

UP MBT QUARTER SCORES: 24-18, 44-32, 69-47, 86-61

UP WBT QUARTER SCORES: 15-12, 36-28, 56-38, 70-55