UP kicks off UAAP title defense with comeback win against DLSU

Carl Tamayo and the UP Fighting Maroons began their UAAP Season 85 campaign with an emphatic win over the DLSU Green Archers. (UAAP photo)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons showed what it meant to have a heart of a champion after clawing back from a 10-point deficit to frustrate the De La Salle University (DLSU) Green Archers, 72-69, during the opening game day of the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament.

As expected, the rematch of the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball semifinals featured a highly-physical see-saw affair.

The Fighting Maroons and the Green Archers traded baskets during the first two quarters as Deschon Winston of DLSU answered every bucket Carl Tamayo and Terrence Fortea produced for UP.

Disaster then struck the Fighting Maroons after DLSU head coach Derrick Pumaren deployed his signature full-court pressure in the last 2:33 of the second frame that paid off dividends for the green and white.

From trailing 28-29, the Green Archers quickly jumped ahead by 10 points, 39-29, after a momentum-clinching 11-0 run in just one minute.

The Green Archers entered the second half oozing with confidence as they carry an eight-point lead, 42-34, courtesy of back-to-back stops during the last 45 seconds of the second quarter.

UP opened the third quarter with a quick 6-0 burst to avoid an early double-digit hole but a counter run from DLSU pushed their lead again back to eight, 54-46, to enter the final frame of the duel.

During the last 10 minutes of the nip-and-tuck affair, the Green Archers had a dose of their own medicine after UP head coach Goldwyn Monteverde stuck with his full-court pressure that helped them tie things up at 54-all off a Fortea breakaway layup.

With six minutes remaining and the score deadlocked at 57-all, UP’s team captain Brix Ramos finally gave the Fighting Maroons the lead after a circus foul-counted drive that sucked the life out of the DLSU hopefuls.

After Ramos’ bang and a bucket, everything just went the Fighting Maroons’ way as the duo of Malick Diouf and Tamayo iced the game for UP.

Not wanting his team to go down without a fight, rookie big man Kevin Quiambao sank a three-pointer to trim UP’s lead to just two points, 66-64.

Tamayo responded with a big-time step-back perimeter jumper with only 1:19 left in the ball game. James Spencer then provided the finishing touches after cashing in an open layup that extended UP’s lead to six, 70-64.

The Green Archers were able to score five more points and cut the deficit to just a point, 70-69, but time wasn’t on their side and could only watch the defending champions get the last laugh.