The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons grabbed their third win at the expense of the National University (NU) Bulldogs in a tight ball game, 80-79, in the UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament, today, at the Mall of Asia Arena. 

UP now holds a 3-1 win-loss card behind stellar performances from prized players and top-scorers Kobe Paras, Bright Akhuetie and Javi Gomez de Liaño, while NU remains in the losing column with a 0-4 slate. 

UP head coach Bo Perasol believes the Bulldogs’ performance, after suffering defeats with small margins, do not reflect their winless record. 

“NU is a lot lot better than their 0-4 slate. If you’re going to get to the margin of losses they had, I think that’s going to be a record for now,” he said. 

NU star player Dave Ildefonso, who led NU in defeat with 25 points, received a brotherly advice from Paras.

“I grew up with Shaun and Dave… we have a bond that no one really knows about. I just told him [Dave] keep your heads up and you’re gonna win a game soon,” he shared.

Meanwhile, Paras exploded with a game-high 25 points, six rebounds, two assists, and two highlight dunks. Big man Akhuetie delivered a double-double performance with 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Paras already tallied 11 of UP’s 18 points in the first quarter but State U still trailed by five, 18-23.

Coming off the bench was not a problem for the older Gomez de Liaño as he proved to be efficient beyond the arc, tallying 17 points from 5-of-7 shooting from the field. 

The second frame saw the Maroons channeling the splash brothers, with Gomez de Liaño firing four consecutive triples to lead a 20-4 run. Pio Longa and Paras converted three-pointers apiece to end halftime with UP on top, 44-36. 

The Bulldogs regrouped and ran their offense by scoring three treys to open the third quarter, but the Maroons’ offense answered back to maintain the lead, 67-59.

Ildefonso sparked a late-4th quarter run with a three-pointer, 11.3 seconds left into the game. However, the Bulldogs failed to convert another basket before the shot clock struck zero in UP’s favor, 80-79

After another one-point victory in the last three games, Coach Bo believes they have yet to adjust their closing transition. 

“We need to learn how to close out games as a team, but that’s the process,” he said. “I know we can, there were just lapses but we are going to learn from that.”

The Fighting Maroons look to extend their winning streak on Saturday, September 21, against the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors at Ynares Center Antipolo.

QUARTER SCORING: 18-23, 44-36, 67-59, 80-79

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