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UP nears clinching semis advantage

Games Saturday:

(Araneta Coliseum)

11:00 a.m. — Adamson vs NU

1:00 p.m. — FEU vs UST

3:00 p.m. – UE vs DLSU

6:30 p.m. — UP vs Ateneo

Defending champion University of the Philippines secured at least a playoff for a Final Four twice-to-beat advantage bouncing back from a previous loss with a 78-60 blowout of luckless University of Santo Tomas in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday.

A big third quarter push separated the Fighting Maroons for good from the pesky Tigers, who put up a fight for two and a half quarters before losing steam following the exit of main gunner Nic Cabanero early in the third frame with a foot injury.

UP kept a tight hold of the solo top spot as it hiked its win-loss record to 11-2, rebounding from a sorry 80-82 loss to De La Salle University last Sunday that ended its seven-game winning streak.

“Coach Gold (Monteverde) rarely talks about pre-games, about the standings, really. Because our season has been built on — in terms of preaching — has been built on the growth of the team. Just building every game. But at the same time, realizing the importance of this game,” UP assistant coach Christian Luanzon said.

The Fighting Maroons can secure the top seed and the semis advantage with a repeat over Season 84 Finals victim Ateneo de Manila University in their rematch on Saturday.

“Having a twice to beat, obviously, is a huge advantage. So that puts us, I guess one step closer, depending on our remaining game, and also the remaining games ng NU and Ateneo,” Luanzon added. “But there’s still a lot to improve on. We’re gonna go back and watch this game, and prepare our best coming into the next game this Saturday.”

Carl Tamayo flirted with a double-double after finishing with 19 points and nine rebounds to lead UP. Cyril Gonzales had 14 markers.

UP opened the fourth quarter with a 15-2 blast that ballooned a 59-49 lead after the third period to 74-51 with 6:09 left in the game.

The Fighting Maroons then held on to their 23-point advantage as Monteverde sent in his bench mob for some minutes of action.

Center Malick Diouf was all over the stat sheet with 10 points, 14 rebounds, six assists, two steals, and a block for UP, which used all 15 players.

UST kept the game close trailing by just two, 38-36, just two and a half minutes into the third quarter before Cabanero hurt his right foot landing on Diouf’s foot during the Tigers’ possession.

He stayed on the floor for a while clutching his foot and was helped back to UST bench limping.

The Fighting Maroons from there pounced on the opportunity to put the game away for good.

UST’s woeful slump continued after absorbing its 11th straight defeat in 12 starts.

Cabanero had 14 points while Adama Faye got 12 markers and 11 boards before fouling out with 4:02 left with the game already decided.

The Scores:

First game:

UP (78) — Tamayo 19, Gonzales 14, Diouf 10, Cagulangan 8, Lucero 6, Abadiano 4, Galinato 4, Spencer 3, Ramos 3, Calimag 3, Alarcon 2, Torculas 2, Lina 0, Eusebio 0, Andrews 0.

UST (60) — Cabanero 14, Faye 12, Calimag 7, Pangilinan 6, Manalang 6, Laure 4, Mantua 4, Manaytay 3, Magdangal 2, Garing 2, Herrera 0, Escobido 0, Gesalem 0.

Quarters: 15-16, 37-34, 59-49, 78-60.

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