The National University Bulldogs overcame the UP Fighting Maroons, 77-70, to arrest their three-game slide and end the first round of UAAP Season 80 on a positive note, Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“UP fought really hard and we were both in a situation where we needed a win. We’re just happy that after forty minutes of basketball, we came out lucky,” NU head coach Jamike Jarin said.
Matt Salem lifted the Bulldogs in the win as he posted a double-double of 21 points on 5-of-10 shooting from downtown and ten rebounds. Big man Issa Gaye added 13 points, eight rebounds, four blocks, and two steals.
“He’s been struggling, scoring-wise. But I told him for us to really make a push this season, he needs to overachieve,” Jarin said about team captain Salem. “Our team is not talented enough to close out games, so it’s always a collective team effort from everybody.”
The Fighting Maroons were ahead by as high as nine points prior to the halftime break. Unfortunately, Jun Manzo got injured at the 7:55 mark of the third. It proved to be the momentum-killer for UP as the Bulldogs managed to pull away after that incident and end the period with a 17-10 run.
After being limited for most of the contest, JJay Alejandro came through in the clutch for his team. He scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth frame, to go with six rebounds, and seven assists.
With 1:17 remaining on the clock, Alejandro got rid of his defender with a spin move and put NU on top by two, 72-70. Salem proceeded in knocking down the dagger triple in their next possession.
All hopes were lost for UP when they committed a crucial turnover that allowed Bulldog rookie Jordan Bartlett to put the game away completely with a couple of free throws.
Paul Desiderio paced the Fighting Maroons with 15 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals, while Diego Dario and Javi Gomez de Liano chipped in with eleven and ten points respectively.
UP suffered their third straight loss and finished the round tied with NU at 5th place with identical 3-4 records.
NU 77 – Salem 21, Gaye 13, Alejandro 12, Joson 6, Diputado 5, Tibayan 4, Yu 3, Abatayo 3, Mosqueda 2, Morido 2, Aquino 2, Bartlett 2, Flores 2, Cauilan 0, Lastimosa 0, Rangel 0.
UP 70 – Desiderio 15, Dario 11, Gomez de Liano Ja 10, Lim 7, Ouattara 6, Manzo 6, Lao 6, Prado 5, Gomez de Liano Ju 4, Vito 0, Ricafort 0.
QUARTER SCORES: 18-21, 33-38, 56-53, 77-70.