MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) An undermanned National University team still proved to be too much for University of the East, as the Bulldogs took a 77-70 win on Sunday afternoon at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Bulldogs were without lead guard Steve Nash Enriquez in their first game of UAAP Season 85, as he is still dealing with a hamstring injury that he sustained in the preseason.
But NU got a balanced effort on offense and were stout defensively to avoid an upset at the hands of the Red Warriors. After settling for a 53-52 lead at the end of the third quarter, the Bulldogs opened the fourth with eight unanswered points to take control of the contest.
This is UE's 15th straight loss, having finished with a winless record in Season 84 earlier this year. Their last win came all the way back on October 30, 2019, when they upset the Bulldogs, 79-77, in Season 82.
"It's a good win for us, pero still marami pa kaming kailangan trabahuhin. Bukas, back to the drawing board," NU coach Jeff Napa said after the game. "Gaya ng third quarter, we come out flat. Usually, that's our strength, 'yung third quarter. 'Yun ang kailangan gamitin i-address."
The Bulldogs were in complete control, 44-32, at the half with John Lloyd Clemente drilling a buzzer-beating triple to end the second quarter. But they played well below their standards in the third, where they were out-scored 20-9 by the Red Warriors.
UE grabbed a 52-51 lead with 27 seconds left in the third thanks to a layup from rookie big man Gani Stevens, but Clemente quickly put his team back in front with a long jumper for a 53-52 spread entering the fourth.
The Bulldogs proceeded to score the first eight points of the final period to extend their lead anew, with sophomore forward Jake Figueroa giving them a 61-52 lead with under six minutes to go. Their lead reached double-digits anew, 65-55, on a split at the line by Mike Malonzo and NU cruised from there.
Clemente led NU with 15 points, while Figueroa missed out on a double-double with 13 points and nine rebounds. Highly-touted rookie Kean Baclaan marked his UAAP debut with nine points, five assists, four steals and three rebounds.
UE was led by Kyle Paranda with 17 points, while Luis Villegas had 15 points. Veteran Harvey Pagsanjan went 0-of-10 from the field in a scoreless 30-minute stint.
NU 77 -- Clemente 15, Figueroa 13, Yu 13, Malonzo 10, Manansala 9, Baclaan 8, John 5, Minerva 3, Mahinay 1, Galinato 0, Padrones 0, Tibayan 0, Palacielo 0, Tulabut 0.
UE 70 -- K. Paranada 17, Villegas 15, Sawat 7, Stevens 6, N. Paranada 6, Antiporda 6, Payawal 5, Tulabut 4, Alcantara 2, Remogat 2, Pagsanjan 0, Guevarra 0, Abatayo 0, Lingo-Lingo 0.
Quarters: 24-11, 44-32, 53-52, 77-70.