UP keeps intact spotless season start in men’s and women’s basketball

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UP’s Harold Alarcon (right) spins his wayspins his way past the defensepast the defense of UST’s Nic Cabanero. —AUGUST DELA CRUZ

University of Santo Tomas (UST) felt there was no need to panic despite a dismal start to the UAAP’s 86th season.

University of the Philippines (UP) gave it a valid reason to rethink that notion.

Harold Alarcon and JD Cagulangan led a strong collective effort by the Maroons in a 110-79 annihilation of the Tigers on Saturday in the men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.

“After the first half, we talked about our defense because it was not that good. We picked [it] up, especially in the third quarter [and] that defined our game,” said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde after earning their fifth straight win ahead of a marquee duel against La Salle on Wednesday. It was a Saturday double for UP after its women’s squad held on to beat UST, 73-69, earlier in the day to also stay unbeaten in five games—the school’s best start since Season 71.

Alarcon had 21 points, five rebounds, and four assists while Cagulangan chipped in 16 points, nine assists, three steals and two rebounds as UP notched a fifth straight win in as many games, the school’s best start in the Final Four era.

The Tigers took a three-point lead in the first period but UP responded with a 35-point second quarter to put the game away. Chicco Briones hit a triple with 4:23 left as UP forged its biggest lead, 103-66.

Briones delivered his best game yet in the UAAP with 14 points, while Francis Lopez had 11 points and four assists in 13 minutes of action.

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Playing better

Cagulangan said they were eager to play better as they weren’t pleased with their 80-76 win over Far Eastern University (FEU) in overtime last Wednesday.

“We bounced back because coach told us last practice that we should not play that way. Although our first half wasn’t that good, we communicated and made the necessary adjustments. Good thing, the team responded. It was a good win,” Cagulangan said after sending the Tigers to a 0-5 record and their 18th straight loss dating back to last season.

FEU bounced back from that loss to UP—and ended a four-game slide—in a big way, with L-jay Gonzales knocking down big shots in overtime to stun defending champion Ateneo, 66-61, in the earlier game.

Buckets were hard to come in the extra period, with both teams scoring just two points each in the first four minutes there when Gonzales came to the rescue of the Tamaraws, making back-to-back step-back jumpers to give his squad a 63-59 lead with 35.2 seconds to go.

“I trust myself that I can shoot the ball because coach Denok (Miranda) also trusts me. I didn’t think about anything but to shoot the ball because coach reminded us that we have to make our shots during [crucial] possessions,” said Gonzales.

Louna Ozar (left) hit key shots for UP in regulation and in overtime. —UAAP MEDIA

First in 5 years

Xyrus Torres sank his two free throws with 23.5 ticks left to extend the lead to 65-59 to survive the defending champions, who unleashed an 18-3 run late in the fourth quarter to force overtime. Gonzales led the Tamaraws to their first win over the Blue Eagles in five years after dropping 21 points, seven rebounds, and two assists to improve his team’s record to 1-4.

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FEU blew a 52-37 margin early in the fourth quarter but Jared Brown sparked Ateneo’s run capped by Chris Koon’s clutch free throws with 31.4 seconds left to tie the game at 57-all, which held on the rest of the way for, necessitating an extra period.

New FEU coach Denok Miranda was relieved after bouncing back from that tough loss to UP, also in overtime, last Wednesday. It was the first win by FEU over Ateneo in eight games.

“This season, I learned a lot from my players, especially during our tough losses, which we knew that we were bound to win. It was a total team effort. We didn’t give up and kept going back to the drawing board,” said Miranda.

Torres delivered 13 points for the Tamaraws. Patrick Sleat had nine points and seven rebounds, while James Tempra added eight.

Ateneo dropped to a 2-3 (win-loss) record despite Jared Brown’s team-high 18 points. Kai Ballungay had 12 points and seven rebounds, while Ian Espinosa and Chris Koon added eight each.

Rookie Louna Ozar, a national women’s team standout, tied the game at 63-all with 45.3 seconds remaining in the final period, to force overtime in the women’s game.

Christie Bariquit, Marielle Mingno and Kaye Pesquera scored a basket each as the Maroons overcame a three-point deficit in extra period to seize a 69-66 spread before Ozar and Favour Onah applied the finishing touches to keep intact UP’s spotless start to the season in both divisions.

“I’m happy we won a close game because that is a facet we can get better. It’s a team effort and we’re hoping to maintain that,” said UP coach Paul Ramos.

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UST slid to a 3-2 record. Kent Pastrana led the Tigresses with 19 points. Tantoy Ferrer had 14 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, and five steals, while Brigette Santos added 11 points.

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