The UP Fighting Maroons leaned on their usual strong finishing kick to turn back the hard-fighting De La Salle Green Archers, 69-72, in their first outing of UAAP Season 85 this afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena. The match was a virtual repeat of their semi-final game in S84, where the Maroons overcame a sizeable Archer lead in the last quarter.
In a highly physical game, the Maroons put to use their scrambling skills to keep pace with the high-octane Archer offensive before unleasing a final quarter kick for that opening day win.
A 6-0 UP run turned a 57-54 Archer lead into a 57-60 deficit that took a toll on the momentarily frustrated Green Archers. The Maroons clamped down on the prolific Schonny Winston during this crucial period, silencing the DLSU offense. UP then poured on the pressure, forcing out-of-system offensive plays and turnovers from the previously gung-ho Archers. It worked, and the Taft offense sputtered when it was most needed.
The Maroons revved it up to another gear and took a five-point lead 61-66 off a Malik Diouf putback with 2:12 left.
Just when all hopes seemed to be lost, rookie Kevin Quiambao swished a triple to cut the lead to two 64-66 with 1:36 remaining. But the defending bubble champions proved to be steadier down the stretch with four straight points to extend the lead to 64-70 with 16 seconds left.
And although DLSU made a mad comeback with a five-points-in -six-seconds streak capped by an improbable Evan Nelle triple to slice the lead to one, 69-70, UP’s Tamayo drained the marginal free throws to seal the victory.
It was another lesson for the darkhorse Archers, particularly about how to preserve leads down the stretch after building double-digit margins in the third quarter. Schonny Winston torched the Maroons defense in first half, and UP focused on shutting him down. Winston was virtually manhandled in the fourth and managed only two points. Unfortunately La Salle could not find an alternative scoring option, as Nelle, Mark Nonoy, Quiambao, Joaqui Manuel and CJ Austria failed to get anything going at crunch time, and UP eked out another victory.
La Salle shot a collective 31.8% from the field and an atrocious 6-of-29 from three-point region. Nonoy was firing blanks all night with 2-for-14 shooting while the rookie Quiambao went for 0-for-12 before getting his groove in the last three minutes with two baskets.
Nelle was a platry 3-for-9 from the field while Manuel shot a terrible 1-for-9 the entire afternoon.
Motor Mike Phillips grabbed a total of 20 rebounds out of the team’s total 45 rebounds, 12 below UP’s 57 boards.
La Salle will face UST on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena in Pasig, with hopes of finally getting into the winning column.
UP 72 : Tamayo 18, Fortea 15, Diouf 9, Spencer 8, Lucero 7, Gonzales 7, Alarcon 5, Ramos 3
La Salle 69: Winston 27, Nelle 9, Phillips M 8, Nonoy 8, Quiambao 5, Austria 4, Manuel 4, Nwankwo 2, Macalalag 2
Quarterscores: 16-17, 34-42, 50-54, 72-69