MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) Paul Desiderio personally made sure that University of the Philippines (UP) won't suffer an upset against University of the East (UE) on Sunday.
The Fighting Maroons trailed by as much as 14 points in the first half, and were still down 38-42 at the halftime break. But Desiderio came up with superb effort in the third quarter, as he exploded for 16 points in the period to help UP break the game open completely.
UP also stepped up defensively in the third quarter, as they limited UE to only seven points to build a comfortable 64-49 lead heading into the final frame.
The Fighting Maroons showed no let-up in the fourth frame, eventually leading by as much as 23 points en route to an 84-71 victory – their second win of the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball tournament.
UP improved to 2-1 in the season, while also sending the Red Warriors to their third consecutive defeat.
Desiderio, after scoring a paltry nine points against Ateneo de Manila University last week, finished with a career-high 28 points on 9-of-16 shooting, while also nine grabbing rebounds in the game.
"We're just happy that we're able to bounce back, despite the fact that we were outplayed and outhustled in the first minutes of the game," said UP coach Bo Perasol after the game.
"This is an all-important game for us, because we're going to be up against very tough teams in the next few weeks. We need to make sure that we need to get as many wins as we can," he added.
Ibrahim Outtara had a breakout game for UP, scoring 14 points while grabbing 18 rebounds. Jun Manzo added 10 points for the Fighting Maroons.
It was a slow start for the Fighting Maroons, who struggled to break the Red Warriors' full court press for the first two quarters of the contest. They also had no answer for UE's Clark Derige, who made all three of his triples in the first half to power the Red Warriors.
But momentum shifted completely to UP's favor in the third quarter, thanks to a torrid start from Desiderio. The Season 79 Mythical Team member scored 16 points in a stunning performance, including back-to-back triples to make it 53-48 and force UE coach Derrick Pumaren to burn a timeout.
The break in action had no impact on Desiderio, however, as he knocked down his third three-pointer of the period for a 61-48 lead before being subbed out to a huge ovation from the UP crowd.
"Malaking bagay ang nawawala sa amin when he is not getting his regular game, and what a time to get his game back," said Perasol of his star guard.
When the dust settled, UP outscored UE, 26-7, in the pivotal third period; Desiderio by himself outscored the Red Warriors, 16-7. The Fighting Maroons held UE scoreless for a seven-minute stretch in the period to completely blow the game open.
They led by as much as 23 points, 77-54, on a lay-up by Desiderio with 4:55 left to play in the game.
After allowing UE to shoot 43.24% in the first half, the Fighting Maroons limited the Red Warriors to only 11-of-39 field goals in the second half of the game, including only three field goals in the third period.
Derige finished with 21 points and nine boards for UE, while rookie Mark Maloles had 16 points. However, Alvin Pasaol was limited to 12 points on 5-of-15 shooting, and played only 14 minutes in the game.
UP 84 – Desiderio 28, Outtara 14, Manzo 10, Gomez de Liano Ja 9, Gomez de Liano Ju 7, Prado 7, Lim 4, Lao 3, Webb 2, Dario 0.
UE 71 – Derige 21, Maloles 16, Pasaol 12, Olayon 11, Manalang 8, Cullar 3, Varilla 0, Bartolome 0, Acuno 0, Abanto 0, Armenion 0, Conner 0, Cruz 0, Gagate 0
Quarter scores: 18-27, 38-42, 64-49, 84-71
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