MANILA, Philippines – The UST Growling Tigers again proved too tough and too confusing for the UP Fighting Maroons.
UST made sure to repeat its UAAP Season 82 elimination round mastery over UP with an 89-69 blowout to stay alive in the men's basketball stepladder semifinals in front of a crowd of 17,722 at the jampacked Araneta Coliseum on Sunday, November 10.
With the win, the Tigers forced a do-or-die match for the last UAAP Finals berth over the twice-to-beat Maroons on Wednesday, November 13, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The winner of the knockout duel will go up against unbeaten Ateneo in the best-of-three title series.
"It’s all about execution on both offense and defense," said UST head coach Aldin Ayo. "We executed our game plan and all my instructions were followed by my players. We were connected out there."
UST got off to a hot start behind Rhenz Abando, CJ Cansino and Renzo Subido to erect an early double-digit buffer againt the Maroons – who have yet to win over the Tigers in 3 games this season.
After establishing the tone early in the 1st quarter with an 11-0 run for an 18-7 lead, UST kept up its pace the entire 2nd frame and led by as many as 18 points, 38-20, off an Abando triple at the 2:15 mark.
At the half, the Tiger trio of Abando, Cansino and Subido had already outscored the entire Maroons squad, 26-24.
“The way we played in most of the quarters, there’s no way we can win against UST,” UP coach Bo Perasol admitted. “We’re up against a team that’s very aggressive. We have to match that or be better than them.”
UP only made matters worse for themselves in the 3rd as Jaybie Mantilla and James Spencer got hit with a pair of unsportsmanlike fouls.
However, they soon turned things around with an 8-0 run at the 3:32 mark to cut the lead to 11 off a Ricci Rivero steal and score, 41-52.
UP then stayed at the cusp of cutting the lead to single-digit, but Cansino capped off the frame with a spin and score for the 13-point lead, 60-47.
The Maroons finally managed to get within single-digit off a crafty Javi Gomez de Liaño layup, 54-63, with 6:37 left in the 4th. However, Abando got them right back with two free throws in the next possession, 65-54.
UST then closed out the game for good with two straight quick threes from Sherwin Concepcion and Nonoy, 78-63, with 2:38 to spare.
UST 89 – Abando 17, Chabi Yo 17, Nonoy 16, Concepcion 12, Cansino 11, Subido 8, Ando 4, Huang 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0.
UP 69 – Ju. Gomez de Liano 20, Akhuetie 19, Rivero 12, Paras 9, Webb 4, Ja. Gomez de Liano 3, Tungcab 2, Jaboneta 0, Mantilla 0, Manzo 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
Quarters: 19-13, 41-24, 60-47, 89-69.