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MANILA, Philippines – The mighty UP Fighting Maroons wrapped up the UAAP Season 86 elimination round in dominating fashion, crushing the third-ranked NU Bulldogs, 79-57, to clinch their first-ever top seed in the Final Four era at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, November 19.
Rookie of the Year frontrunner Francis Lopez led the way with a team-high 13 points, 3 steals, and 2 rebounds in just 18 minutes as UP topped the standings with a 12-2 record.
Reigning MVP Malick Diouf added 11 points, 8 boards, 4 dimes, and 3 blocks, while captain CJ Cansino provided a late spark to also finish with 11 points in just 10 minutes off the bench.
UP waxed red-hot right from tip-off, parlaying 10 quick NU turnovers into a massive 17-2 start, capped by an Aldous Torculas triple with still 4:27 left in the opening quarter.
While the Bulldogs tried their hardest the rest of the game, even inching within single digits by the third quarter, 37-44, the Maroons regained a 15-point separation immediately after with a 10-2 response, ending with a Francis Lopez and-one conversion at the 2:07 mark, 54-39.
NU never recovered from that short spurt in the final frame as UP peaked with a 25-point gap, 79-54, off a Cyril Gonzales layup in the final 1:32 of regulation.
“We really prepared for this game. We knew how tough NU is,” said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde in Filipino. “We really needed to prepare and at the same time, we’re trying to improve as a team.”
“We played well as a team, we played together. We just have to sustain it [in the Final Four].”
Jake Figueroa paced the Bulldogs’ second straight loss to drop to a 10-4 slate with 15 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, and 2 blocks.
UP and NU will get a one-week break before their respective Final Four matches as Ateneo and Adamson – holding similar 7-7 records – will still clash for the fourth and final seed on Wednesday, November 22, at the MOA Arena.
UP 79 – Lopez 13, Diouf 11, Cansino 11, Felicilda 9, Torculas 7, Cagulangan 6, Gonzales 6, Alarcon 4, Pablo 4, Belmonte 3, Torres 3, Briones 2, Abadiano 0, Fortea 0, Alter 0, Gagate 0.
NU 57 – Figueroa 15, Manansala 10, John 7, Yu 6, Baclaan 3, Yu 3, Malonzo 2, Enriquez 2, Jumamoy 2, Palacielo 2, Gulapa 2, Padrones 0, Parks 0, Galinato 0, Delos Reyes 0.
Quarters: 23-13, 42-30, 58-45, 79-57.