NU sends champs crashing

National University sent the reigning champion University of the Philippines crashing as it booked an 80-75 victory in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Omar John flirted with a double-double while Kean Baclaan was superb from start to finish for the Bulldogs, who dealt the Fighting Maroons first loss since Game 2 of their best-of-three finals showdown with Ateneo de Manila University last season.

Aside from that, it was also the Fighting Maroons’ first loss to the Bulldogs since 2017.

“If we want to compete, we have to beat the big boys,” said NU coach Jeff Napa, whose wards are now on top of the team standings with a 3-1 win-loss card together with the Fighting Maroons and the Blue Eagles who pulled off a 79-52 victory over University of Santo Tomas early in the day.

“It’s a big deal winning over UP here in the UAAP. Every game here is a must-win. I challenged them to bring their identities to the game.”

John fired a career-high 156points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals while Baclaan, a last-minute transferee from UST, chipped in 13 points, four rebounds, four assists and three steals for the resurgent NU squad.

Zavier Lucero scored 22 markers and eight boards for UP, which drew a double-double game of 17 points and 11 rebounds from star forward Carl Tamayo.

Tamayo, a Gilas Pilipinas mainstay, tried to ignite a late-game rally with a three-pointer in the final 1:13, but NU hung tough to seal the victory.

Also emerging victorious were the Blue Eagles, who banked on Forthsky Padrigao’s explosion to pull off a masterful 27-point victory over Growling Tigers.

Padrigao fired a career-high 20 points, eight assists and five steals for the Blue Eagles, who dropped a booming 11-0 rally in the crucial stretch of the third period to rip the game wide open.

The lead even ballooned to 29 off a split by Sean Quitevis, 79-50, in the final 45.6 seconds of this match that started tight before the Blue Eagles caught fire.

Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, however, said the final scores don’t reflect the real story.

“It was a tough and physical game. You expect that from UST. They’re battling for respectability right now and they deserve that because of how hard they play,” Baldwin, whose wards improved to 3-1 win-los card, said.

“But you know, they wanna get wins and so they’re gonna fight for that wins and we had to weather that storm.”

“It was a good win for us in the end against a team that really had fighting spirit today.”

Aside from Padrigao, Dave Ildefonso also stood tall as he engineered the furious third-quarter uprising to finish with an all-around production of 10 points, nine rebound and six assists while Ken Balunggay chipped in 10 markers,

Nic Cabañero delivered 12 markers, four rebounds and two assists for the Growling Tigers, who absorbed their third straight loss in four games.

The scores:

First game:

ATENEO (79) – Padrigao 20, Ildefonso 10, Ballungay 10, Kouame 7, Koon 7, Chiu 5, Quitevis 5, Gomez, 3, Andrade 3, Garcia 3, Fornillos 3, Lazaro 2, Daves 1, Fetalvero 0, Ong 0, Lao 0.

UST (52) – Cabañero 12, Lazarte 11, Faye 8, Manalang 5, Pangilinan 5, Duremdes 5, Garing 4, Magdangal 2, Calimag 0, Manaytay 0, Mantua 0, Laure 0, Herrera 0, Gesalam 0, Escubido 0.

QUARTERS:  18-14, 33-32, 57-43, 79-52.


Second game:

NU (80) – John 16, Baclaan 13, Figueroa 10, Enriquez 10, Minerva 6, Clemente 6, Malonzo 5, Yu 4, Galinato 4, Mahinay 2, Tibayan 2, Manansala 0, Palacielo 0.

UP (75) – Lucero 22, Tamayo 17, Abadiano 11, Alarcon 9, Diouf 7, Fortea 6, Gonzales 2, Spencer 1, Galinato 0, Calimag 0, Ramos 0.

QUARTERS: 23-24, 50-42, 66-66, 80-75

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