At long last, the University of the Philippines came out to play with all of its weapons in the UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Bright Akhuetie was a force, Juan Gomez de Liano was all over the place, and Paul Desiderio finally got going in the Fighting Maroons’ 67-61 conquest of De La Salle University on Sunday at the MOA Arena.
Akhuetie only built on his 20-20 game the last time out and was flanked by Juan GDL and Desiderio as State U put a stop to its three-game slide and powered its way back into the win column now at 2-3.
It didn’t look like that was going to be the case after the first half as they found themselves trailing by three. “It was a painful game for us against Adamson. When you lose those games, you lose confidence and the only way to get that back is by winning,” head coach Bo Perasol said post-game.
Out of the halftime break, however, Akhuetie, Juan GDL, and Desiderio spearheaded a 22-10 charge that, all of a sudden, put them ahead, 51-43, late in the third.
Of course, the Green Archers kept coming and Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar pulled them to within three inside the last two minutes only to see Juan GDL score four unanswered points to keep them at bay.
Juan GDL wound up with 17 points, six assists, and three rebounds while Akhuetie nearly missed out on another 20-20 game with 19 markers and 19 boards.
Desiderio, struggling thus far in the season, turned in his best game with 12 points, seven rebounds, four steals, two assists.
With that, UP got its first win over a fellow playoff hopeful. “I’m just relieved that we were able to get this win. We’re hoping we can continue this in the next games,” coach Bo said.
Before this, their first and only win came at the expense of still winless University of the East.
Baltazar and Melecio paced La Salle with 13 and 12 points, respectively. With their rally falling short, however, they fall to 2-2.
UP 67 – Akhuetie 19, Gomez de Liano Ju 17, Desiderio 12, Gomez de Liano Ja 7, Manzo 6, Dario 2, Vito 2, Tungcab 2, Spencer 0, Lim 0, Murrell 0, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0
LA SALLE 61 – Baltazar 13, Melecio 12, Santillan 12, Caracut 9, Dyke 8, Go 5, Serrano 2, Bates 0, Manuel 0, Capacio 0, Corteza 0
QUARTER SCORES: 13-12, 29-33, 51-45, 67-61
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.