Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie in the free throw line during the game against the UST Growling Tigers in the third quarter. UP suffered their first loss of the season, 69-85, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, Saturday. | Photo by Ara Eugenio

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons were handed their first loss of the season by the University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Growling Tigers, 69-85, in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, September 7.

The Diliman-based squad managed to stay close to UST’s trail late in the second half, but the back-to-back three-point baskets of Mark Nonoy and Renzo Subido sealed the deal for the white-and-gold.

“We don’t deserve to win that game. UST just outplayed us; it just showed the crack in our team,” said UP head coach Bo Perasol. 

The Fighting Maroons relished 28 points off rebounds, but it could not keep the buckets at bay, finishing with only 25-of-81 field goal attempts compared to UST’s 34-of-73.

Amid the 10-point deficit in the last quarter, 69-79, UAAP Season 81 MVP Bright Akhuetie took matters into his own hands, but to no avail against UST’s super rookie Chabi Chabiyo.

UP started slow with a six-point cushion courtesy of UP captains Jun Manzo and Noah Webb, with Akhuetie leading the charge, 12-6. However, the España-based team caught up as Dave Ando exploded with three consecutive two-point baskets and one from beyond the arc to give his squad the lead, 14-19. 

“It’s definitely our defense. We had a slow start, very slow start,” said Akhuetie who amassed 19 points, nine rebounds and three assists. 

The Gomez de Liaño brothers set up the third quarter with a mini-run by UP, 44-46, with Javi’s layup and perfect free-throw shooting, and Juan’s assists to David Murrell.

Jaydee Tungcab also silently fashioned inside scoring for UP, placing himself third on UP’s top scorers with 11 points. Meanwhile, prized recruit Ricci Rivero only produced four markers from the field.  

Perasol said their isolation plays are not enough to win matches and get to the final four, so the team needs to adjust defensively and offensively. 

“We need to share the ball more,” said Perasol. “It’s like we were trying to watch everybody make things happen… and that’s the tendency when you have very good teammates.”

Standing at 1-1, the State U is set to face its Season 81 rival Adamson University (AdU) at the Mall of Asia Arena on September 15, Sunday.


QUARTER SCORES: 15-19, 37-44, 58-63, 69-82


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