ANTIPOLO - The UP Fighting Maroons trusted their defense and overpowered the UE Red Warriors, 62-56, to notch their third straight victory in UAAP Season 82 Saturday at Ynares Center.
Coach Bo Perasol and his wards came into the game with a defensive mindset to slow down the Red Warriors, who were coming off a sensational win over the De La Salle Green Archers. In particular, they hounded UE gunner Rey Suerte and forced him into a 4-point, 2-for-15 shooting performance. The Cebu standout was coming of a career 31-point performance and the game-winner against La Salle.
After the game, Perasol was pleased with the defensive effort of his team. He also knew that putting the focus on Suerte had a price.
"Well, that was what we were really about - that if you're going to clamp down on Rey Suerte, the others will step up. That was just what happened," Perasol said. "All the rest like (Alex) Diakhite, (Nick) Abanto, (Neil) Tolentino, stepped up, played, and scored for them. Our intention was really to limit their output, they're number 3 in scoring, number 1 in fastbreak points."
Diakhite was the lone UE player in double-figures with 21 points alongside 17 big rebounds. Despite the lack of scoring from the Red Warriors, they also made life difficult for the Fighting Maroons who shot just 35 percent.
Bright Akhuetie still managed his way to 16 points, five rebounds, three assists, and three steals. Javi Gomez De Liaño once again displayed his improved outside shooting to register 15 points and two triples. Kobe Paras put up 12 points but needed 14 shots.
The Red Warriors kept within striking distance in the low-scoring affair. A banker from Harvey Pagsanjan cut UP's lead to a single point, 57-56, under two minutes remaining. The answer from the Fighting Maroons came from Jaydee Tungcab, knocking down a huge corner triple to give his team breathing room. Moments later, he also had a terrific block on Suerte to keep UE at bay.
"We had lots of lapses in the end it was Jaydee that saved us with his 3-point shot in the corner," said Perasol. "His long game brilliance of defending Rey Suerte helped us a lot. It's just the principle that we had in our team - whoever is out, whoever is doing well, is going to have the time. That was happened. He was able to give back to the trust that I gave him."
For his part, Tungcab was simply happy to provide whatever his team needed.
"I want to thank the Lord, the coaches, and to all the staff," Tungcab said. "[That shot] wasn't just for me. I didn't win it all by myself, it was the whole team."
UP remains in second place in the standings with its 4-1 record. UE, on the other hand, stumbles into a 1-4 card.
UP 62 -- Akhuetie 16, Ja. Gomez de Liano 15, Paras 12, Rivero 7, Tungcab 4, Ju. Gomez de Liano 3, Manzo 3, Webb 2, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
UE 56 -- Diakhite 21, Abanto 9, Tolentino 8, Antiporda 6, Pagsanjan 6, Suerte 4, Cruz 2, Manalang 0, Mendoza 0, Natividad 0.
Quarters: 23-15, 39-27, 46-42, 62-56.
Rey Suerte came in the game as the league's number one scorer with 22.8 points per game, but struggled mightily against the Fighting Maroons.
UP lacked the scoring production of Juan Gomez De Liaño who had a forgettable performance of 3 points on 1-for-7 shooting.
UP - vs DLSU on September 25 at MOA Arena
UE - vs ADMU on September 25 at MOA Arena