MANILA, Philippines – Far Eastern University (FEU) turned what was expected to be a close game into a dominant showing, as they routed University of the Philippines (UP), 78-59, for their third win in a row in the UAAP Season 80 men's basketball tournament.
With the win on Sunday at the Araneta Coliseum, the Tamaraws improved their record to 4-2, and rose to solo third in the league standings, behind unbeaten Ateneo de Manila University (6-0) and defending champion De La Salle University (4-1).
The Fighting Maroons, meanwhile, failed to build on their huge victory over the Green Archers last week. The loss snapped their two-game run and dropped their record to 3-2.
FEU has now won its last 12 meetings against UP.
"It was a defensive game for us," said FEU coach Olsen Racela. "First time namin this year to limit a team to below 60 points, and 'yun ang focus namin before the start of the game."
"I think we also caught them on an off night," he admitted. "'Yung mga napasok nilang shots noong last game against La Salle, hindi pumapasok ngayon."
Skipper Ron Dennison led the way for FEU with 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists, while also playing lockdown defense against UP's main man, Paul Desiderio. Richard Escoto added 12 points, and Prince Orizu manned the paint and grabbed 14 rebounds.
The game was tied at 14-all late in the first quarter, but the Tamaraws uncorked an 11-0 run bridging the first and second frames to seize control. In all, FEU outscored UP, 22-10, in the second quarter to head into the break with a comfortable 40-24 advantage.
They continued to pad their advantage in the third frame, with a circus lay-up by Wendel Comboy pushing the lead to 20 points, 56-26.
It was UP rookie Juan Gomez de Liaño who sparked the Fighting Maroons' comeback. Together with Ibrahim Ouattara, they combined to score the Fighting Maroons' next 12 points, with Gomez de Liaño's three-point play cutting the deficit to 10 points, 48-58, with still 7:17 left.
Unfortunately for the Fighting Maroons, it was their last meaningful bucket of the game. Dennison anchored an 18-1 run for the Tamaraws, which also saw FEU hold UP scoreless for nearly five minutes. The veteran guard scored seven points in that rally that gave the Tams complete control of the game once more.
"Palagi kong sinasabi sa kanila, when a team makes a run, saan tayo magpo-focus? Sa stops," said Racela. "Normally, a team 'pag may run, gusto maka-score agad. Kami, we focus on stops."
"Nag-respond na rin sila on the offensive end, so malaking turnaround," he added.
When the dust cleared, the Tamaraws had taken their biggest lead, 76-49. Only a few garbage time from Diego Dario made the final score appear closer.
The Tamaraws shot 43.21% from the field, but it was their work on defense that won them the game. UP's 59 points were the fewest they scored this season, while their 39% field goal shooting was also their lowest of the year.
After torching La Salle for 16 three-pointers, UP only made four of 19 attempts this time around. They were also limited to only 13 bench points and only three second chance points – both season lows.
Ouattara had 17 points and 13 boards for UP, while Gomez de Liaño added 16 markers. But Desiderio scored only nine points on 4-of-12 shooting after averaging 21 points per game prior to the contest.
FEU 78 – Dennison 16, Escoto 12, Orizu 8, Inigo 7, Parker 7, Comboy 6, Cani 5, Tuffin 4, Ebona 4, Ramirez 4, Tolentino 3, Stockton 2, Trinidad 0, Nunag 0, Bayquin 0
UP 59 – Ouattara 17, Gomez de Liano Ju 16, Desiderio 9, Dario 8, Manzo 4, Lim 3, Webb 2, Gomez de Liano Ja 0, Vito 0, Ricafort 0, Jaboneta 0, Lao 0, Prado 0
Quarter scores: 18-14, 40-24, 56-43
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