Juan Gomez de Liaño hit the game-winning triple to steer the UP Fighting Maroons to a come-from-behind victory against the De La Salle Green Archers, 72-71, in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Gomez de Liaño, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, intercepted a pass from Aljun Melecio from the other side of the court before nailing the pull-up 3 that ensured UP's fourth straight win and fifth overall in six games.
Kobe Paras top-scored with 21 points, 13 of which came from the free throw line. Bright Akhuetie, meanwhile, put up a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds.
"My team is just like leading a chariot with wild stallions -- one goes to the right, to the left, to the middle. Come winning time, they get their acts together, we get the win," said UP head coach Bo Perasol. "A lot still has to improve as far as how we are going to deal with our offense. I'm quite sure we're quite decent with our defense."
The Green Archers were still on top by four, 71-67, in the final minute and 19 seconds. Off a timeout, Paras fished Justine Baltazar's fifth foul and converted a couple of free throws to put the Fighting Maroons within two points.
Jamie Malonzo caught Akhuetie's fifth foul on the other end with 49 seconds left, but he failed to capitalize and missed both charities. UP muffed three shot attempts before managing to force a turnover that led to the game-winner.
"The biggest shot came from Juan. He's not even 100 percent yet," said Perasol. "I had a deal with him. I know he's struggling with his recovery, but Juan is a player, a winner. Always a winner. I didn't have any doubt in my mind when he was bringing down the ball."
La Salle led most of the time, mounting as high as a 13-point cushion in the first half. It became a game of runs in the third quarter as the Fighting Maroons momentarily stole the advantage, 40-39, after a putback from Akhuetie.
Aljun Melecio sparked the Green Archers' counter-run that put them ahead by seven points entering the fourth. They managed to stay in front despite UP's persistent attempts to overtake, but they ran out of steam in the dying seconds.
The loss dropped La Salle to a 2-4 record, tied with the FEU Tamaraws in fifth place. Melecio delivered 16 points highlighted by four 3s while Andrei Caracut chipped in 16 points and four assists.
UP 72 - Paras 21, Akhuetie 17, Gomez de Liano Ju 10, Rivero 9, Manzo 5, Tungcab 5, Webb 3, Jaboneta 2, Gob 0, Gomez de Liano Ja 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0
LA SALLE 71 - Caracut 16, Melecio 16, Baltazar 13, Bartlett 8, Malonzo 7, Manuel 5, Serrano 4, Lojera 2, Bates 0, Cu 0
QUARTER SCORES: 14-18, 29-36, 52-59, 72-71
- Kobe Paras scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half. He struggled with only four makes out of 19 attempts but he was almost perfect from the free throw line (13-of-14).
- Justine Baltazar picked up his fourth foul towards the end of the third quarter, which forced La Salle to bench him in the early moments of the fourth. He contributed 13 points and nine rebounds before fouling out in the final minute.
DLSU - September 28 (Saturday) vs UST at the Mall of Asia Arena
UP - September 29 (Sunday) vs Ateneo at the Smart Araneta Coliseum