MANILA, Philippines – A more in-control Paul Desiderio showed up in the third quarter of University of the Philippines' (UP) game against University of the East (UE), and led the Fighting Maroons to a massive victory.
After being limited to only nine points on 4-of-18 shooting in their previous game against Ateneo de Manila University, Desiderio submitted his best shooting performance of UAAP Season 80 so far against the Red Warriors.
He connected on nine of his 16 field goals, including five of his nine three-pointers, for a career-high 28 points. Sixteen of his points came in the pivotal third quarter, when UP turned a slim 38-42 deficit into a comfortable 64-49 advantage.
Desiderio put the finishing touches on UP's 84-71 win by waltzing to the lane for a lay-up to complete his career-best performance, which he laced with 10 rebounds, one assist, and one steal. Later, he explained that simply settling down led to his timely explosion.
"First two games kasi, masyado akong gigil," Desiderio admitted. "Tina-try ko talaga i-settle 'yung sarili ko na relaxed lang, kasi 'yun nga – forced shots 'yung first two games. Sobrang pangit."
Indeed, Desiderio often settled for jacking up perimeter shots in their games against University of Santo Tomas and Ateneo. It worked against the Growling Tigers – he made the game-winning three-pointer – but not against the Blue Eagles.
Against the Red Warriors, Desiderio knew when to pick his spots.
"Buti na lang ngayon, na-control ko na 'yung sarili ko," said Desiderio.
The fourth-year guard gave plenty of credit to his former high school teammate in University of the Visayas, Jun Manzo, who is in his first season with the Fighting Maroons.
"Sabi naman ni Jun, ise-set up niya ako palagi, so ayun," said Desiderio. "Malaking bagay (si Jun Manzo). Parang kahit tinginan na lang, alam na namin eh. Hindi ko na kailangan sabihan na hanapin niya ako."
"Tinginan lang, alam na namin ang gagawin namin," he added.
For UP coach Bo Perasol, Desiderio's career-best could not have come at a better time. The Fighting Maroons are set to take on defending champion De La Salle University on Saturday, and the huge win was a boost to their confidence.
"What a time to get his game back," said Perasol. "This is an all-important game for us."
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