UP Fighting Maroons def. DLSU Green Archers 71-68
Ricci Rivero (12 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists)
It was a breakout game of sorts for the former Green Archer as he tied his season high in points. It was his play in the first few minutes of the first quarter that set the tone for the Fighting Maroons on both ends. He hit a couple of buckets, got to the line and, more impressively, made back-to-back defensive stops to fuel. It helped that he wasn’t forced to playmake and played at his more natural 2-spot.
Javi Gomez de Lilano (8 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals)
He was another Fighting Maroon that was crucial to their blazing hot start, particularly in the second quarter. His versatility was crucial in battling DLSU’s length.
Bright Akhuetie (17 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals)
The Nigerian has proven time and time again that he is still UP’s most important player. And he proved it again in this one. When DLSU unleashed that furious 21-0 run in the second quarter, Bright took it upon himself to score five straight points to keep the lead going into the half and halt their momentum. Come the fourth period, he was his usual self doing everything from keeping opposing bigs off the boards to scoring crucial buckets.
Jamie Malonzo (17 points, 11 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 block)
It wasn’t the result he would have wanted but Malonzo nonetheless delivered on his second to the last game donning the green and white. He did everything he could to keep his team in the match. On one end, he hit three of his five attempts from deep and helped the bigs with four offensive boards. On the other, he hounded Kobe Paras all game and even limited him to just 10 points on 3/12 shooting. Unfortunately, no one else stepped up and he could only do so much on his own.
- This was a great example of what many probably hoped to see from UP this season. For several stretches, they played suffocating defense, which forced DLSU into some terrible, contested shots to bail them out. And even though they eventually lost the rebounding battle 56-41, their gang rebounding early on was critical to their success, especially since it still allowed them to push the pace.
- Offensively, they did a great job whipping the ball around and staying on the move until they got the best attempt possible. They even had a little Showtime-esque run at the start of the second period when they just flew down the court on every possession and found open teammates. Credit has to be given to Jun Manzo for keeping everything organized. It also helped that he had eight of their 19 assists and just one turnover. There were still stretches of isolation play that helped DLSU crawl back into the game but they should still be encouraged by the potential of their unselfish play.
- As for DLSU, they just lacked a sense of urgency from the tip. And to do that in a do-or-die game in pretty inexcusable. They had a disastrous start to the game not scoring a field goal in the first 6-7 minutes. As mentioned earlier, UP’s defense was definitely a factor. But they also shot themselves in the foot by not executing well. Plays didn’t develop quickly enough, which forced them back to isolation and contested jumpers.
- In a game the Green Archers needed them the most, Aljun Melecio and Justine Baltazar didn’t deliver. They were a combined 7/32 from the field including 2/10 from deep for just 22 points. They were also the only players to log in more than 30 minutes on the court. That kind of effort in that amount of playing time just killed the team. Melecio tried too much to bail the team out by himself with contested jumpers. He did pick it up in the fourth quarter but still. As for Baltazar, his overall body language was really bad. He didn’t look good, he struggled on both ends and shot selection was just ugly. He just never got into the groove and looked comfortable out there, even against non-Bright bigs. Again, it’s just disappointing to see that from two of your top guys in an elimination game.