By CARLO ANOLIN
University of the Philippines came through with key defensive stops down the stretch to hold off Far Eastern University, 73-70, for its eighth straight win in the UAAP Season 84 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Ricci Rivero showed grit on both ends of the floor, and with the help of Joel Cagulangan, the Maroons held the Tamaraws’ backcourt duo of RJ Abarrientos and Ljay Gonzales in the last minute of the payoff period.
Defense paved the way for offense as Zavier Lucero and Malick Diouf converted go-ahead baskets, helping the Maroons improve to an 8-1 record – their best showing yet since the Final Four era.
“On the first part ‘di namin masyado makuha ‘yong rhythm ng game namin but ‘yong defense namin especially nung third quarter medyo pumick-up,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde.
Rivero posted a game-high of 19 points spiked by four triples to go with five rebounds, Carl Tamayo chalked up 14 points and six rebounds, and CJ Cansino had 12 points and four rebounds.
Harold Alarcon delivered off the bench with eight points, Lucero chipped in seven points and six rebounds, while Diouf also added seven points and eight rebounds.
“At the same time, running the offense on the team, mas gumanda ‘yong takbo ng offense namin,” added Monteverde.
Tied at 70-all, Lucero drained a go-ahead mid-range jumper to gain momentum at 72-70 with 1:26 left in the fourth quarter.
Though UP made a combined 1-of-6 shooting in the crucial sequence, the Tamaraws failed to take advantage – particularly after Harold Alarcon flubbed his gift shots with the Maroons ahead, 73-70, 5.9 ticks left.
But Abarrientos, who earlier missed his three-point attempt with 15.4 seconds to go, just couldn’t find his shot with another effort from beyond the arc as the time expired.
Emmanuel Ojuola paced the Tamaraws, who fell to a 3-6 record, with another double-double performance of 16 points and 14 rebounds while Abarrientos and Gonzales scored 13 points apiece.
UP 73 ˗ Rivero 14, Tamayo 14, Cansino 12, Alarcon 8, Lucero 7, Diouf 7, Cagulangan 3, Fortea 3, Webb 0, Abadiano 0, Spencer 0, Calimag 0, Catapusan 0.
FEU 70 ˗ Ojuola 16, Abarrientos 13, Gonzales 13, Torres 9, Sandagon 6, Tempra 5, Alforque 3, Bienes 3, Li 2, Coquia 0, Sajonia 0.