UP returns to UAAP Finals, ousts NU
MANILA, Philippines—Malick Diouf has the ability to erase the mistakes of his teammates and extend crucial possessions.
But the presumptive MVP this season could well accomplish way more than what he had signed up for.
Diouf’s stellar performance led the UP Fighting Maroons in hammering a 69-61 win over the National University Bulldogs on Wednesday, ushering the defending champions back to the scene of their triumph in the UAAP men’s basketball finals.
“We’re back in the finals. We were struggling in the first half, but good thing we caught up and won the game,” said Diouf after banging in 17 points and pulling down 21 rebounds on top of three blocks and two feeds in a spectacular all-around performance.
The Maroons finished off the Bulldogs with a 9-0 windup with JD Cagulangan capping it with a free throw and a three on his favorite corner reminiscent of his heroic shot in the championship last season.
On the other end, NU just couldn’t buy a basket, bungling all of their attempts in a major stretch and ending up without a field goal in the last four minutes.
“This win is very important. Back to back finals, we have the chance to make history,” said Gerry Abadiano, whose short jumper midway in the fourth ignited UP’s big run.
Zavier Lucero also contributed in a big way, scoring 12 points and plucking 11 rebounds in the absence of Carl Tamayo, who twisted his ankle in the first quarter.
The Maroons will face the winner of the other Final Four encounter pitting Ateneo and Adamson in a best-of-three championship series.
The Bulldogs dropped an unexpected blitzkrieg early on, leading by nearly double digits right in the first quarter by engaging the Maroons in a footrace.
But what hurt for the Maroons most at that span was when Tamayo accidentally stepped on the foot of Michael Malonzo in a rebound scuffle.
Tamayo was led off the court with only five minutes had gone by in the game, his right ankle sore and in deep pain, quieting the UP faithful that came in full force and somehow putting the defending champions on the edge.
The Maroons simply prohibited the Bulldogs to continue imposing themselves in the second half as Terrence Fortea, Lucero and Diouf put their act together in an excellent finish for UP in the third quarter.
UP 69 — Diouf 17, Lucero 12, Gonzales 11, Cagulangan 8, Abadiano 7, Fortea 6, Tamayo 6, Alarcon 2, Spencer 0, Galinato 0, Torculas 0.
NU 61 — Figueroa 16, Baclaan 14, Malonzo 11, John 8, Yu 2, Clemente 2, Enriquez 2, Mahinay 2, Minerva 2, Galinato 2, Manansala 0, Palacielo 0, Tibayan 0.
Quarters: 17-19, 35-38, 54-45, 69-61.
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