By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons hacked out their toughest win of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament so far after surviving the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, 67-64, last October 18, 2023, held at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
With the hard-earned victory, the Fighting Maroons extended their undefeated record to six straight wins and are a win away from sweeping the first round of the tournament.
It was a game of counter-runs that boiled down to what team wanted it more, and that squad proved to be UP as they embodied: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Trailing by double digits in the first half, the UP coaching staff headed by Goldwyn Monteverde expressed his frustration to his wards heading into the final two-quarters of the game.
Monteverde blasted his team and pointed out the two main things that allowed DLSU to take control of the first half, their lack of effort in securing the loose balls and their lazy perimeter defense which allowed the Green Archers to produce 47 points in just 20 minutes of action.
That halftime encouragement Monteverde gave to his team then pumped them up in the second half as the Fighting Maroons kicked off the third frame with an insane 21-3 scoring run that quickly turned the tables.
UP put an emphasis on the defensive end, switching to a zone set that confused the Green Archers for the whole 10-minute span.
As DLSU head coach Topex Robinson deployed the offensive play calls to break the zone, coach Monteverde countered with a man-to-man defense that solved the problem heading into the final period.
From trailing by nine points at the first half, UP’s third-quarter eruption helped them retake the lead, 59-50.
Just when the Fighting Maroons thought they could replicate their fiery fourth-quarter start against National University, the Green Archers displayed resiliency as Kevin Quiambao and Mike Phillips helped DLSU recover.
The duo’s tenacity and efficient scoring in the perimeter led DLSU’s momentum-clinching 8-0 offensive run to equalize the ball game at 63-all with only 1:05 remaining in the game.
However, UP’s Gerry Abadiano answered the call in the crucial stretch after knocking down a pull-up perimeter jumper to put the Fighting Maroons ahead, 65-63.
Down by only a point with 24 seconds remaining, DLSU had the chance to retake the lead but fumbled two straight offensive possessions.
Reyland Torres then sealed the win for the Fighting Maroons after cashing in both of his shots from the charity stripe with 2.7 seconds left.
Abadiano led UP with 13 points and four rebounds backstopped by reigning MVP Malick Diouf who chipped in 10 points and 18 rebounds.
The Fighting Maroons will have the chance to finish the first round with an undefeated record as they set up a finals rematch with the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles on October 22, 2023.