MANILA, Philippines – The loaded UP Fighting Maroons held on in the dying seconds to deal the winless NU Bulldogs another heartbreaking 80-79 decision in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, September 18.
The Bulldogs – whose 4 losses all came by the slimmest of margins – wouldn't let up again as Dave Ildefonso sank a quick three to get the Bulldogs within a point, 79-80, with 11.3 seconds to spare.
But NU couldn't take advantage of the opportunity, missing their final shot right after UP's David Murrell missed two free throws in the dying seconds.
The escape propped up the Maroons' record to 3-1.
"We need to learn how to close out games as a team. That’s a process," said coach Bo Perasol, whose Maroons also won by a point against Adamson, 83-82, in overtime last Sunday.
Hotshot recruit Kobe Paras led the Maroons for the second straight game with 25 points while reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie also dropped 19 markers.
With the Maroons trailing by 5 at the end the 1st quarter, 18-23, Akhuetie and Paras conspired to launch a massive 23-4 run and take a 41-27 lead with 3:08 left in the half.
However, the scrappy Bulldogs clawed their way back within a point multiple times in the 3rd, the last as at 55-56 midway through the quarter.
But UP then regained its first-half fire and finished the frame on an 11-4 blitz ending with a James Spencer triple to go back up 8, 67-59.
Still, NU again got back within striking distance late into the 4th, as Ildefonso sank a corner three to get within 3 points, 71-74, at the 3:26 mark.
Bulldogs guard Enzo Joson, however, continued his bad streak of endgame mishaps as he blew two straight free throws after a five-point UP lead that could have closed the gap back to a single possession with 1:10 to go.
Likewise, Ildefonso had the same opportunity in the final 32 ticks, but only split his charities to get within 4, 74-78.
However, he rebounded well and sank 2-of-2 to get within 2, 76-78, after Akhuetie blanked his free throw trip off the duty foul as the Maroons held on in the dying seconds amid Ildefonso and the Bulldogs' last-gasp effort.
Ildefonso paced the Bulldogs with 25 points.
UP 80 – Paras 25, Akhuetie 19, Ja. Gomez de Liano 17, Tungcab 6, Manzo 4, Rivero 4, Longa 3, Murrell 2, Ju. Gomez de Liano 0, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
NU 79 – D. Ildefonso 25, Gaye 13, S. Ildefonso 13, Gallego 9, Joson 8, Minerva 7, Clemente 2, Mosqueda 2, Diputado 0, Galinato 0, Malonzo 0, Oczon 0, Tibayan 0, Yu 0.
Quarters: 18-23, 44-36, 67-59, 80-79.