UP boosts to 5-0 with MBT blowout, WBT nail-biter vs UST

League-leading University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons tightened their grip on the top spot of UAAP Season 86 collegiate basketball tournaments with a pair of wins over reeling University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Saturday, October 14, at the Mall of Asia Arena.

State U remains the only unbeaten team after five games.

Too Strong, Too Deep

The UP Men’s Basketball Team (UP MBT) displayed their dominance anew on the hard court after breezing past the UST Growling Tigers with a 31-point blowout, 110-79, the most lopsided game-ender of the season.

The Maroons rode on the shoulders of Harold Alarcon who came up big with 21 points to go with four rebounds and four assists.

Alarcon was backstopped by JD Cagulangan and Chicco Briones who churned out 16 and 14 markers, respectively.

UP was off to a slow start at the opening canto with the Growling Tigers leading by 3 points before a Malick Diouf-Cagulangan connection took the lead, 28-24.

The España-based squad kept within striking distance midway through the second frame, courtesy of Nic Cabañero’s triple that brought the score down to 38-40.

However, the Maroons imposed their will from thereon with a 23-9 rampage to charge a 35-point explosion in the third quarter. 

With a commanding 94-59 lead, UP utilized their depth in the closing quarter as the bench scored 68 points to UST’s 10.

They went on to tally their biggest lead of 37 points, 103-66, off a Chicco Briones trey with 4:38 left in the game.

All players fielded by Monteverde left an imprint on the stat sheets as the team tallied its best start to a season in the Final Four era.

“Happy lang ako sa team namin kasi naka-bounce back kami. Hindi man maganda yung first half namin, nag focus kami sa defense and ginawa namin yung sinabi ni Coach Gold,” said Alarcon.

On the losing side, Cabañero carried the cudgels for UST with 24 points, eight rebounds and three steals.

Another Cardiac Affair

Meanwhile, the UP Women’s Basketball Team (UP WBT) pulled off its third straight clutch finish, the latest being a 73-69 overtime escape of the UST Growling Tigresses.

With a perfect 5-0 tally, the Lady Maroons posted their best start to a season since 2008.

“We came into the season focused on fighting our battles one game at a time,” said UP WBT Head Coach Paul Ramos. “I’m happy that we won a close game. It’s a team effort and we’re hoping to maintain that.”

Favour Onoh asserts her mastery inside the paint against twin defenders Rachelle Ambos and Chille Serrano. Photo by  Monique Javier

Kaye Pesquera led the way for UP with 17 points and three rebounds while Louna Ozar and Christie Bariquit chipped in 16 and 15 markers, respectively.

With State U trailing by 5, less than 2 minutes left in the payoff period, Pesquera hit a crucial triple at the 1:49 mark to keep the hope alive for her squad, 62-63.

Ozar then went 1-of-2 from the charity stripe, tying the game at 63-all that forced an overtime. 

The Growling Tigresses rushed to a 3-point cushion early in the extension but Pesquera, Bariquit and Marielle Vingno conspired to score six straight buckets for the Diliman side, 69-66.

UST’s Rachelle Ambos’ basket at the 1:56 mark kept her team in the game, 69-68, before Ozar’s bucket and Favour Onoh’s putback completed UP’s fifth-straight win.

It was a tough defensive battle that saw the Lady Maroons forced 33 turnovers from the Growling Tigresses, while committing 31 of their own.

Despite another hectic outing, Coach Ramos gave credits to his team’s attitude and culture, which he said is reminiscent of that squad 15 seasons ago.

“They had the same fight, the things that I see in the girls’ eyes right now, I also saw that back in the day,” said Ramos. 

Jane Pastrana led UST in the loss with 19 points, while Reynalyn Ferrer followed with 14 markers and 11 boards.

The Maroons seek to move closer a first-round sweep as they face De La Salle University on Wednesday, Oct. 18, at the Mall of Asia Arena (Men’s) and Adamson University Gym (Women’s).

UP MBT QUARTER SCORES: 28-24, 59-45, 94-59, 110-79

UP WBT QUARTER SCORES: 14-19, 29-34, 45-47, 63-63, 73-69