MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Defending champion University of the Philippines (UP) took another step towards securing a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final 4, after crushing the University of Santo Tomas (UST), 78-60, Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons pulled away in the second half after the Growling Tigers had gone toe-to-toe with them in the first two quarters. Carl Tamayo led the way for UP with 19 points and nine rebounds in just 17 minutes, with Cyril Gonzales adding 14 points.
UP improved to 11-2 with one game left on their schedule -- a finals rematch against Ateneo de Manila University on Saturday.
"'Yung twice to beat, obviously malaking advantage 'yun. So that puts us, I guess, one step closer, siguro depending on our remaining game, and also the remaining games ng NU at saka ng Ateneo," said UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon.
"But there's still a lot to improve on. We're gonna go back and watch this game, and prepare our best coming into the next game this Saturday," he added.
UP settled for a 37-34 lead at the half before breaking the game open in the third quarter, where they out-scored the Tigers, 22-15. They opened the fourth period with 11 unanswered points for a 70-49 lead, and UST had no answers on either end of the floor.
The Maroons went on to lead by as much as 23 points in the final quarter.
For UST, this was their 11th straight defeat of the season, dropping them to 1-11. The Tigers are already out of contention for a spot in the Final 4.
Nic Cabanero had 14 points on 6-of-16 shooting along with seven rebounds, while Adama Faye struggled with foul trouble but still managed a 12-point, 11-rebound double-double. Once again, however, they were the only UST players in double-digits as their supporting cast struggled.
Malick Diouf also tallied a double-double of 10 points and 14 rebounds on top of six assists and two steals in just 20 minutes for the Fighting Maroons.
UP 78 -- Tamayo 19, Gonzales 14, Diouf 10, Cagulangan 8, Lucero 6, Abadiano 4, Galinato 4, Spencer 3, Ramos 3, Calimag 3, Alarcon 2, Torculas 2, Lina 0, Eusebio 0, Andrews 0.
UST 60 -- Cabanero 14, Faye 12, Calimag 7, Pangilinan 6, Manalang 6, Laure 4, Mantua 4, Manaytay 3, Magdangal 2, Garing 2, Herrera 0, Escobido 0, Gesalem 0.
Quarters: 15-16, 37-34, 59-49, 78-60