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UP eyes F4 playoff slot

Games today:
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
11 a.m. — UP vs UE
1 p.m. — UST vs Adamson
3 p.m. — NU vs FEU
6:30 p.m. — Ateneo vs La Salle

Defending champion University of the Philippines seeks to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four seat when it takes on University of the East in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament today at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Sporting an 8-1 win-loss record at solo top spot buoyed by a five-game winning streak, the star-studded Fighting Maroons are fancied to have their way against the Red Warriors.

But UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde does not want his team to be too complacent against an opponent that is very much capable of pulling off a surprise.

“Since the first round, UE has been really playing very well,” Monteverde said as his team braces for another tough battle in the 11 a.m. curtain-raiser of the quadruple-header playdate.

“We really have to work as a team to beat them.”

Meanwhile, Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University rekindle their storied rivalry at the 6:30 p.m. nightcap after the National University-Far Eastern University tussle at 3 p.m.

University of Santo Tomas and Adamson University face off at 1 p.m.

The Fighting Maroons are fresh from a 91-70 rout of Adamson University last Wednesday behind the inspired game of Malick Diouf and Most Valuable Player contender Carl Tamayo.

The Senegalese center had a neat stat line of 20 points, eight boards and five steals while Tamayo finished with 18 points.

UP defeated UE, 84-77, in the first round but needed a huge second half rally to shake off the clingy Red Warriors.

“We think UE is a good team, it will be a big mistake to take them lightly. They can beat any team so we need to prepare well,” Tamayo said.

With a 4-5 record in the fourth spot tied with streaking Far Eastern University, the Red Warriors are very much in the thick of the semifinals race.

UE snapped a three-game slide with a morale-boosting 81-51 annihilation of bottom-dweller University of Santo Tomas last Wednesday.

“It’s anybody’s ballgame. We just need to deal with our assignments on a per game basis. We’ll take it one game at a time, go back to the drawing board and make the necessary adjustments,” Red Warriors coach Jack Santiago said.

Santiago will rely on Calvin Payawal and Luis Villegas, who scored 17 and 16 points, respectively, in their last outing, to lead UE’s charge.

The Bulldogs, on the other hand, beat the Blue Eagles, 78-74, last Wednesday to improve their record to 6-3 at solo second spot while pulling down Ateneo to third with a 5-3 slate.

The Falcons and the Green Archers, who are on a two-game slump, fashion identical 3-5 cards at sixth to seventh while the Tigers lost their last seven games in eight outings.

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