MANILA – (UPDATE) They may be flaunting short basketball shorts but the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons made sure their season opener won’t be short of highlights.
Last year’s runner up scored a nerve-racking 61-55 victory over the young the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws to capture its first win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum Wednesday.
Javi Gomez de Liaño put up 22 big points in 62 percent of shooting. Jun Manzo and Bright Akhuetie had combined 17 markers.
Up by five after a basket from Gomez de Liaño, FEU slowly returned to the match as Jay Gonzales completed a run-and-gun play after two charities that trimmed the deficit to a solitary point, 54-55.
Wendell Comboy then split his freethrows to equalize the game at 55-all. Hubert Cani had the chance to give the Tamaraws the lead but missed the mark.
Akhuetie broke the deadlock with a hook shot to make it, 57-55, with 1:35 left to play, and Manzo iced the match with four free throws.
“It is natural for us to aim for the championship and go all the way. But it’s not going to be easy. Although, we wanted to do it that way but we can do a lot better than that,” UP coach Bo Perasol said.
The much-anticipated Kobe Paras did not suit up for UP in its first game due to a sprain injury.
No FEU player scored in double digit, with Rey Bienes leading the charge with nine points.
“I really think we are very emotional with our offense. Sometimes, we got carried away. We overreacted. We have to work on avoiding that,” Perasol said.
UP blew its huge lead from the first half and found itself working extra in the final minutes of the game. The Fighting Maroons were limited to just nine at the start of the second half.
Down by 11, Pat Tchuente of Tamaraws scored a putback slam in the 7:45 mark of the third to cut the lead to single digits, 31-40. Cani then nailed a three to move closer to UP, 34-42.
Bienes then scored off the glass before dropping a triple bomb for a 41-44 deficit. Xyrus Torres had his own three-pointer with 2:10 left in the third quarter, 44-45.
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