UP ousts feisty NU, returns to title round
University of the Philippines survived a gutsy challenge from the National University, hacking out a 69-61 escape to book a return trip to the UAAP men’s basketball finals.
The UP Maroons closed out with an 11-0 run after trailing at 58-61 to shut the door on the NU Bulldogs, who had hoped to force a Final Four rubber match.
Malick Diouf, the presumptive season MVP, powered the defending champions with a huge double-double of 17 points and 21 rebounds.
The Maroons will take on the winner of the Ateneo-Adamson semifinal duel.
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Armed with a twice-to-beat advantage, the defending champion UP Fighting Maroons shoot for a quick return to the finals when they go up against the NU Bulldogs in the Final Four of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday, December 7, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Despite coming off a near two-week break, expect UP and NU, who split their elimination round assignments against each other, to show no signs of rust and deliver a thrilling back-and-forth battle in this afternoon affair.
Count on UAAP Season 85 MVP Malick Diouf to lead the charge for the Fighting Maroons, together with fellow big men Carl Tamayo and Zav Lucero, who is due for a bounce-back performance after struggling mightily in UP’s final game of the second round against the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
In that game, Tamayo paced UP with a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Lucero missed all of his 11 shots from the field and went scoreless in 22 minutes.
Meanwhile, expect guards JD Cagulangan and Terrence Fortea to steady the ship for the Fighting Maroons and have their hands full against a feisty Bulldogs backcourt in rookie Kean Baclaan and Steve Nash Enriquez.
For the Bulldogs, look for graduating forward John Lloyd Clemente – the team’s leading scorer with 10.6 points per outing – to lay it all on the line, along with Jake Figueroa and foreign student-athlete Omar John as they try to extend the series and force a winner-takes-all showdown on Sunday, December 11.
Game time is 2 pm. – Rappler.com