Fighting Maroons firm up grip on No. 1 spot by routing Falcons

Games On Saturday
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
11 a.m. — UE vs UP
1 p.m. — UST vs AdU
3 p.m. — NU vs FEU
6:30 p.m. — ADMU vs DLSU

REIGNING champion and breakaway leader University of the Philippines (UP) trounced Adamson, 91-70, and widened its gap from the pack in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament second round yesterday at the Mall of Asia Arena.

Malick Diouf ran roughshod over the Soaring Falcons with a career-high 20 points, eight rebounds and five steals as the Fighting Maroons notched their fifth win in a row to firm up grip on No. 1 spot at 8-1.

Mr. Diouf tallied a superb efficiency of +30 on 63-percent accuracy and only one error with Carl Tamayo (18), Zavier Lucero (14) and Terrence Fortea (12) having their own way in a scattered attack.

The Fighting Maroons, whose lone loss came in the first round, are now at least two games ahead of their closest suitors in a back-to-back title defense bid.

But coach Goldwin Monteverde is far from being satisfied as UP, despite steady composure and steely resolve, continued to embark on slow starts.

“We didn’t have the start that we wanted once again. We need to improve on that as the season progresses, especially on defense. So, we’re not thinking about whatever standing we have. It’s all about consistency,” said coach Goldwin Monteverde.

The Fighting Maroons figured in a back-and-forth rally in the first half but turned it up early in the third with an 11-0 blitz to turn a slim 51-49 cushion into a comfortable 62-49 lead.

UP went on to lead as many as 22 points en route to a repeat win over Adamson after a closer 87-78 victory via overtime in the first round.

In the first game, CJ Payawal (17) and Luis Villegas (16) led the way as University of the East  (UE) put the clamps down on Santo Tomas with an 81-51 blowout win to snap its three-game skid and stay in the tight Final Four race at 4-5.

Jerom Lastimosa, who went down with an ankle injury in the fourth, had 19 for Adamson (3-5) while Adama Faye’s 23 points and 18 rebounds went for naught in the seventh straight loss of the Growling Tigers (1-7). — John Bryan Ulanday

The Scores:

First Game

UE 81 — Payawal 17, Villegas 16, Tulabut 8, Sawat 6, Antiporda 6, N. Paranada 6, Remogat 5, K. Paranada 4, Stevens 4, Pagsanjan 3, Beltran 3, Guevarra 3, Abatayo 0, Langit 0.

UST 51 — Faye 23, Pangilinan 8, Cabanero 7, Manalang 4, Manaytay 4, Escobido 2, Lazarte 2, Valentin 1, Calimag 0, Garing 0, Gesalem 0, Duremdes 0.

Quarterscores: 25-14, 45-23, 60-36, 81-51.

Second Game

UP 91 — Diouf 20, Tamayo 18, Lucero 14, Fortea 12, Alarcon 9, Cagulangan 8, Galinato 8,  Spencer 1, Calimag 1, Gonzales 0, Abadiano 0, Ramos 0.

Adamson 70 — Lastimosa 19, Manzano 10, Sabandal 9, Douanga 8, V. Magbuhos 8, Yerro 7, Hanapi 5, Colonia 3, Barcelona 1, Flowers 0, Jaymalin 0, Torres 0, Barasi 0, Fuentebella 0, W. Magbuhos 0.

Quarterscores: 28-25, 50-45, 69-57, 91-70.