MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons continued their rise up the UAAP Season 84 standings with an 81-68 rout over the winless UE Red Warriors at the Mall of Asia Arena on Tuesday, April 26.
Already assured of a Final Four berth, the Maroons further solidified their spot with a twice-to-beat bonus following La Salle’s earlier loss as they rose to a 10-2 record. Meanwhile, the Red Warriors continued their freefall to a 0-12 slate.
Coming off a string of subpar outings, early MVP candidate Zavier Lucero finally had another breakout game of 20 points, 14 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocks on 7-of-12 shooting off the bench in just 27 minutes.
Veteran guard Ricci Rivero likewise had a great outing of 17 points, 4 boards, 2 dimes, 2 steals, and 1 block in just 25 minutes.
It was all UP from the get-go as they mounted a 44-26 lead to end the first half coming off back-to-back and-one Rivero conversions.
Although UE inched within 54-63 early in the fourth quarter off a 10-4 run, a Jem Cruz unsportsmanlike foul on Malick Diouf completely killed the Red Warriors’ momentum as the Maroons fired off from that point a 10-2 response, capped by a highlight alley-oop Rivero jam off the JD Cagulangan dish for the 73-56 separation with 4:20 left.
Lucero then drilled the dagger trey at the 1:50 mark to cap UP’s lead at 20, 81-61, and formally seal the Maroons’ twice-to-beat bid.
“We’re still working as a team, how to get our rhythm, how to execute. In our remaining games, although we know we’re in the top two, we still need to work, and continue to build our momentum for the Final Four,” said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde after the game.
UE veteran Jojo Antiporda paced another sorry loss with 15 points in 20 minutes, while young guard Clint Escamis quietly flirted with a triple-double off a 9-point, 11-board, 8-assist line in 27 minutes.
UP aims to extend its lofty winning run on Thursday, April 28, as it takes on the reeling UST Growling Tigers at the 7 pm nightcap, while UE continues its search for a breakthrough in the 10 am matinee against the up-and-down NU Bulldogs.
UP 81 – Lucero 20, Rivero 17, Cansino 8, Tamayo 7, Eusebio 7, Diouf 6, Abadiano 6, Cagulangan 4, Fortea 4, Spencer 2, Calimag 0, Alarcon 0.
UE 68 – Antiporda 15, N. Paranada 13, Escamis 9, K. Paranada 8, Beltran 7, Sawat 4, Pagsanjan 4, J. Cruz 3, Villanueva 3, Lorenzana 2, Abatayo 0, Tulabut 0, Guevarra 0, Pascual 0, P. Cruz 0.
Quarters: 18-8, 44-26, 59-44, 81-68.