MANILA (UPDATED) - Carl Tamayo came through down the stretch as the University of the Philippines slipped past De La Salle University, 72-69, to open their title defense in the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament.
The reigning Rookie of the Year produced a massive double-double of 18 points and 19 rebounds to go along with two assists and two steals. He drilled a big shot down the stretch as UP recovered from a third quarter deficit on Saturday night's game at the Mall of Asia Arena.
It was a nip-and-tuck game that featured several ties and lead changes, but the Fighting Maroons proved to be more steady down the stretch while La Salle's offense faltered.
Terrence Fortea, stepping in as the lead guard in place of the injured JD Cagulangan, had 15 points and nine assists, though he also had six of UP's whopping 29 turnovers. Malick Diouf missed out on a double-double with nine points and 13 boards.
"I just felt na 'yung defense namin, especially in the third quarter, nag-pick up. It was more of a defensive game. It created shots for the team and led to easy baskets, so ang laking bagay ng depensa," said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde.
La Salle led by as much as 10 points and were up, 54-46, off a three-pointer by Evan Nelle with a little over three minutes left in the third quarter. But UP steadily cut into the deficit, and baskets by Tamayo and Harold Alarcon put them within four points, 54-50, entering the final quarter.
A split at the line by Alarcon with 6:23 left knotted the count at 57, and UP skipper Brix Ramos put them ahead for good with a three-point play at the six-minute mark, 60-57. The Maroons took a five-point lead, 66-61, off a bucket by Diouf with 2:24 to play.
La Salle rookie Kevin Quiambao kept the Green Archers alive by drilling a huge three-pointer -- only his second field goal of the contest. But Tamayo was quick to respond to his high school teammate: facing up against La Salle's Michael Phillips, Tamayo drilled a clutch jumper that gave them a 68-64 lead with just a minute and 17 seconds to play.
Missed shots by Schonny Winston and Quiambao led to a James Spencer bucket for a 70-64 UP lead, but Evan Nelle's off-balance, tough three-pointer gave the Green Archers some hope with 6.6 seconds to go, 70-69.
A duty foul by La Salle sent Tamayo to the line with four seconds to go, and he calmly drilled both freebies to peg the final score. The Green Archers still had a chance, but Nelle lost control of the ball in the closing seconds.
Winston led all scorers with 27 points, but was held to just four in the final quarter when UP took charge. No other Green Archer reached double-digits; Nelle had nine points, five assists, and four rebounds while Phillips finished with eight points and 20 rebounds.
Quiambao had eight points on 2-of-13 shooting. Both of his field goals came in the final three minutes of the game.
La Salle scored 22 points of UP's 29 turnovers, but struggled to execute in the half court especially when Winston was shackled.
UP 72 -- Tamayo 18, Fortea 15, Diouf 9, Spencer 8, Lucero 7, Gonzales 7, Alarcon 5, Ramos 3, Abadiano 0, Galinato 0, Torculas 0, Eusebio 0, Lina 0, Calimag 0.
LA SALLE 69 -- Winston 27, Nelle 9, M. Phillips 8, Nonoy 8, Quiambao 5, Austria 4, Manuel 4, Nwankwo 2, Macalalag 2, B. Phillips 0.
Quarters: 16-17, 34-42, 50-54, 72-69.