By Mark Kevin Reginio

After winning an upset battle against Season 78’s first runner-up Ateneo De Manila University, the University of the Philippines (UP) Lady Maroons suffered a 34-point loss against the defending champions National University (NU) Lady Bulldogs, 40-74, Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

The Lady Bulldogs started to bury the Lady Maroons in the second quarter after Afril Bernandino fired a trey followed by two inside shots to stretch the lead, 23-13. UP’s team captain Daphne Esplana answered two three-point shots of her own but was not enough to cut the lead, 34-20, entering the second half.

NU played tough defense in the third to outscore UP 23-6 and gain one of their biggest leads, 26-57.

“[During halftime] I just told them we can’t just relax, we can’t exchange baskets. I [also] told them to concentrate [and] to move the ball around,” NU’s head coach Patrick Aquino said.

The Diliman-based squad delivered a terrible 26% shooting clip while the Lady Bulldogs had 42%. UP tried to close the gap in the fourth by capitalizing on NU’s turnovers, but the Lady Bulldogs’ shooting, with Samantha Harada on the lead, saved them from those errors to finish the game convincingly.

NU’s Bernardino and Jack Animam both produced 16 points to post them at the top of the standing with no loss; meanwhile Esplana topped UP’s scorers with nine points.

“We’ve been expecting [her] (Esplana), she’s the captain of the team. Dapat talaga siya ang bubuhat [sa team]. I’ve been telling her that she’s doing a good job and ituloy lang niya,” UP’s head coach Kenneth Raval said.


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