The UP Fighting Maroons took care of their first assignment of UAAP Season 82 by fending off the FEU Tamaraws, 61-55, Wednesday afternoon at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Reigning UAAP MVP Bright Akhutie nailed the go-ahead basket at the 1:35 mark, a hook shot over opposing foreign student-athlete Patrick Tchuente, 57-55 for UP.
Rey Bienes had a shot to give FEU the lead, but muffed his corner three attempt with about 30 ticks to go.
Maroon guard Jun Manzo put away the Tamaraws by nailing four free throws to seal the deal for UP.
UP started the game hot, racing to a 14-point advantage in the first half, but FEU switched to a zone in the second half to stymie the Maroons' offense and whittled the lead down to five, 55-50, with five minutes to go. L-Jay Gonzales and Wendell Comboy then combined for a 5-0 run to tie things up with four minutes left, but FEU was held scoreless the rest of the way.
Javi Gomez de Liaño led all scorers, with 22 points on 10/16 shooting to go along with six rebounds. Manzo added nine.
Bienes meanwhile paced the FEU offense with nine markers, while three other players contributed eight.
UP faces the UST Growling Tigers in their next game on Saturday, September 7 at 4 p.m. while FEU meets the UE Red Warriors on Sunday at 12 noon, both at the same venue.
"I really think we're very emotional with our offense, sometimes we get too carried away," said UP mentor Bo Perasol. "I think we just overreacted on a lot of things. We have to work on a lot of things, we have to get our emotions in check."
Last year's finalists did not see the much-anticipated debut of Kobe Paras, who was sidelined with an ankle sprain. He sat on the bench wearing street clothes.
UP (61) -- Ja. Gomez de Liaño 22, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 7, Rivero 7, Murrell 6, Ju. Gomez de Liaño 6, Webb 3, Prado 1, Mantilla 0, Tungcab 0, Spencer 0.
FEU (55) -- Bienes 9, Gonzales 8, Tchuente 8, Comboy 8, Tuffin 6, Torres 6, Cani 5, Ebona 3, Celzo 2, Alforque 0.
Quarter Scores: 20-17, 38-27, 47-44, 61-55.