MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) -- Kobe Paras shone anew as University of the Philippines escaped with a tight 80-79 triumph over National University in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
The Fighting Maroons had to fend off a last-ditch rally from the Bulldogs, led by Dave Ildefonso, to claim their second win in a row and hike their record to 3-1.
National U, meanwhile, suffered yet another heartbreaking loss to fall to 0-4 in the tournament. The only winless team this year, NU has lost its games by an average margin of four points, including three one-point losses.
Paras had 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting, along with 6 rebounds and 2 assists in his second game for the Fighting Maroons.
Bright Akhuetie had 19 points and 12 rebounds, and nailed a pair of crucial charities with 16 seconds to play in the game.
"We need to learn how to close out games together as a team," said UP head coach Bo Perasol after the game. "That's a process."
"We've got three close games already, and I think we are smart enough, we are wise enough. We have to learn how to close it out, because the fact of that is, I know we can," he stressed. "I know we can."
UP used a big second quarter to recover from a slow start, with Javi Gomez de Liano knocking down big three-pointers that pushed the Maroons to a 44-36 lead at the half.
They would lead by 10 points early in the fourth frame, 69-59, off a bucket by JD Tungcab. But the Bulldogs refused to fade away, and a triple by Dave Ildefonso made it a one-possession game, 74-71, with 3:27 left in the game.
Big buckets by Akhuetie and Paras kept UP in control, 78-71, with just 2:12 to go, but a lay-up by Enzo Joson and a split at the line by Ildefonso with 32.3 seconds left made it a four-point game, 78-74.
The Maroons kept the door open for NU when Akhuetie bricked two charities, and Ildefonso knocked down his freebies on the other end to make it a one-point game with 17.4 ticks left.
Akhuetie made up for his earlier miscue by making two free throws, but Ildefonso responded with a massive three-pointer for an 80-79 count with 11.6 seconds left. He was subsequently called for a foul that sent David Murrell to the line, but the UP forward flubbed both attempts.
With no timeouts left, National U got the ball to Ildefonso, who was forced to give up the rock to John Lloyd Clemente. The sophomore guard fired up a jumper, but it fell well short and Akhuetie controlled the possession as time expired.
Perasol paid tribute to National U after the game, noting that their record does not reflect their quality.
"NU is a lot, lot better than their 0-4 slate," he said.
Ildefonso finished with 25 points 7-of-15 shooting, while Issa Gaye had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
UP 80 -- Paras 25, Akhuetie 19, Ja. Gomez de Liano 17, Tungcab 6, Manzo 4, Rivero 4, Longa 3, Murrell 2, Ju. Gomez de Liano 0, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
NU 79 -- D. Ildefonso 25, Gaye 13, S. Ildefonso 13, Gallego 9, Joson 8, Minerva 7, Clemente 2, Mosqueda 2, Diputado 0, Galinato 0, Malonzo 0, Oczon 0, Tibayan 0, Yu 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 44-36, 67-59, 80-79.
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