After suffering three-straight losses, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons find themselves back in the winning column after a 67-61 triumph over the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, today, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

State U earns their second win and jump to a 2-3 standing.

UP established themselves early, but gave away too many possessions due to a series of turnovers that slowed the pace of the first frame. It was a low scoring quarter with 13-12, UP.

Just when the Diliman squad began heating up, starting off with a Juan Gomez De Liano three, the defense of the Fighting Maroons lulled and DLSU quickly took advantage.

Both teams traded buckets in the second quarter that ended with an Aljun Melecio trey at the buzzer, giving the Taft-based squad a four-point lead, 33-29, at the half.

After halftime, the Diliman ballers opened the third quarter with Gomez De Liano igniting a 10-0 run, 43-37, capped off by a resounding dunk.

Heading to the fourth quarter, Bright Akhuetie and his defense over Justine Baltazar proved effective as this helped UP gain a 10-point lead against the Green Archers, 55-45.

With seven minutes remaining, State U relied on the Akhuetie and younger Gomez De Liano duo to complete a 10-2 run, 61-47, in favor of UP.

Sensing a possible victory, the UP bench and fans alike cheered and jumped out of their seats – a contrast energy from that which was seen during the first three quarters.

Down to the last few seconds, DLSU could only watch the game slip away as Jun Manzo was fouled and ended up shooting both free throws, sealing the victory for UP, 67-61.

Reminiscing on UP’s past losses, Head Coach Bo Perasol said, “The first thing that’s going to be taken away from you when you lose successively is the confidence, and that’s something that is very difficult to get back. The only way to get that back is to win.”

“I’m just relieved right now that we’re able to get this one and I hope we can get to the winning groove in our next game,” he added.

Akhuetie led the Maroons with a double-double of 19 points and 19 rebounds. Juan Gomez de Liano and skipper Paul Desiderio both chipped in 17 points and 12 points, respectively.

Justine Baltazar paced DLSU with 13 points.

The Fighting Maroons hope to maintain their momentum as they face the National University (NU) Bulldogs this Sunday, 2pm, at the Araneta Coliseum. TNP

Photo by Summer Padilla

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