The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons will dive into a 12-day hiatus after winning their last six games in the UAAP Men’s Basketball Tournament of the 85 season.
They will use this break for a little introspection.
“This break is nice because we have the opportunity to focus on ourselves and break down what we can improve on,” said Zavier Lucero. “So when we get to the next game, it doesn’t matter who we’re up against, because we’ve worked on ourselves.”
Lucero had 17 points on Thursday, helping the Maroons face a late challenge from the University of the East (EU) Warriors for an 83-69 win that guaranteed the defending champions a Final Four appearance.
Malick Diouf was instrumental for UP after posting 23 points, 15 rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in a big treat for the boisterous UP faithful at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Maroons got help to clinch a place in the semi-finals after Ateneo’s 68-54 win over La Salle later that night. UP next face Far Eastern University (FEU) on November 17, when the league returns from a hiatus it is taking to make way for the Asian Fiba World Cup qualifying window.
Tamayo: No Gilas Relay
UP big man Carl Tamayo was part of the national team pool but pulled out due to injury.
“I think I’m not 100% to join Gilas [Pilipinas] and I won’t be able to help them if I’m not one hundred percent,” Tamayo said. “I don’t trust myself. I feel that I need rest and rehabilitation. I think Gilas will understand.
Lucero’s late exploits utterly wore down the Warriors with back-to-back reverse layups in the final minutes and sent UE to their sixth loss in 10 games.
“The most important thing for our team is to make sure that we are well oiled and ready to go inside and no matter what happens on the other side of the pitch. We will be good at trying to kill every team there,” Lucero said.
UP remain top of the team standings with a ninth win in 10 outings with National U out of breath after holding off FEU, 71-60.
But the Bulldogs’ seventh win against three losses left them still two games behind the Maroons.
Not that UP cares how teams are stacked in the win-loss department.
“We are not really in the standing of our team. Every time we play, we just watch the game, talk about it and find ways to improve,” Monteverde said. “The goal is to execute as a team, try to move the ball well and make the right decisions. At the same time, we make sure everyone is working hard defensively.
National University (NU) had to come out of a 19-point hole to secure victory as Patrick Yu poured in 13 of his 15 points to power the comeback.
“We saw in this game that we wanted more. All 16 of us (on the bench) can step in at any time. I just waited for a chance to show what I can do there” , said Yu, whose jumper and three gave the Bulldogs a comfortable eight-point cushion in the final two minutes.
“We are lucky to make a comeback. We didn’t give up, we picked up the momentum and found a way to win,” NU coach Jeff Napa said after the Bulldogs secured a second straight victory following a crucial victory over the Blue Eagles in Ateneo.
Also coming from behind to boost their semi-final chances were the Adamson Falcons, who saw Cedrick Manzano sneak into a field goal and sink the game-winning free throw with 7.1 seconds left in a 56-55 win over the University of Santo Tomas. .
“We just managed to find ways,” said Adamson coach Nash Racela, whose Falcons managed to register their fourth victory in nine games despite the absence of stars Jerom Lastimosa and Vince Magbuhos.
The Maroons almost fell victim to a comeback.
UP built a 21-point cushion in the first quarter and looked like they were heading for an easy win before the Warriors battled back in the second half thanks to the efforts of Jalen Stevens and the Paranada brothers – Nick and Kyle.
Kyle Paranada’s three free throws and Steven’s inside cannon shot closed the gap in seven minutes with four minutes left, but the Maroons quickly regrouped and put out the fire on Diouf’s exploits and Lucero.
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