By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons racked up their undefeated winning streak to three after outdueling the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 78-60, in the ongoing UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament last October 7, 2023, held at the Araneta Coliseum.
UP survived a great start from the Bulldogs and stepped on the gas pedal midway through the third quarter to take control of the remaining minutes of the game.
Trailing by as much as nine points during the opening quarter, the Fighting Maroons finally found their stroke and tightened their defensive coverage to regain momentum in the second quarter to take a five-point advantage, 30-25.
NU still had the lead with 6:56 remaining in the third, 34-35, but an offensive snowball led by Harold Alarcon helped UP take off.
Baskets from Lebron Lopez and CJ Cansino then ballooned UP’s cushion to 10 points, 51-41, which forced NU to call a timeout and devise another defensive scheme to halt the run of the Fighting Maroons.
NU got close and trimmed the lead to just six, 60-54, but a UP counter-run hurt the Bulldogs, extending their advantage to double-digits again.
It was all UP in the last five minutes of the ball game as NU’s shooting woes from the perimeter and the free throw line prevented them from a stunning comeback.
Lopez had his best game as a member of UP so far after dropping an all-around effort of 14 points, seven rebounds, four assists, and two steals.
Reigning UAAP Most Valuable Player (MVP) Malick Diouf contributed another double-double outing of 12 points and 13 rebounds while Cansino chipped in 12 markers.
Meanwhile, Jake Figueroa top-scored the Bulldogs in the losing effort and tallied 13 points and 10 rebounds while superstar Kean Baclaan was only limited to nine markers.