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Fighting Maroons avoid late-game meltdown, hold off Red Warriors

PASAY CITY, PHILIPPINES - OCTOBER 12, 2019: Ricci Rivero of UP attempts a dunk against UE during their game in the 2019 UAAP Season 82 Basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena. KC Cruz/ESPN5

Relying on firepower and clutch execution, the UP Fighting Maroons averted an endgame collapse to carve out a 78-75 win over the UE Red Warriors in UAAP Season 82 Saturday at the SM MOA Arena.

Five players from UP finished in double-figures with Bright Akhuetie leading the way with 18 points and 14 rebounds and Jun Manzo had a season-high performance of 17 points, spiked by three triples. New addition Ricci Rivero also had his best game for UP, reaching double-figures for the first time with 10 points.

The Fighting Maroons came out of the gate guns blazing as they raced to an 11-0 start. They kept their foot on the gas pedal and established an 18-2 advantage before taking a commanding 27-8 lead against the flat-footed Red Warriors.

"So finally we were able to bounce back. In the perfect basketball world, we would have wanted a more convincing one. But we'll take this of course because we've come from back-to-back losses," said UP assistant coach Ricky Dandan.

Just when UP was set to cruise to its bounce-back win, UE slowly but surely made its way back in the second quarter. The Red Warriors' comeback bid was spearheaded by Alex Diakhite who amassed 28 points and 20 rebounds. The Senegalese center was a dominating force in the paint but had 10 turnovers.

Rey Suerte was right behind Diakhite with his line of 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists.

UE kept knocking on the door of UP several times throughout the second half but couldn't break through. The Red Warriors were able to cut the deficit to just two points, 69-67, with three minutes left in the contest, but Kobe Paras answered with a booming triple to create enough cushion.

"There are things that will be addressed for sure," said coach Dandan on his squad's near-meltdown. "We were playing really well, our defense was carrying us through all of that. We kind of lost it."

"We have work to do because we have UST on Wednesday."

After back-to-back losses, UP gets back on track as it improves to 6-3 in the standings. The Red Warriors, on the other hand, stumbled to a 3-7 card.

THE SCORES

UP 78 -- Akhuetie 18, Manzo 17, Paras 14, Ja. Gomez de Liano 10, Rivero 10, Ju. Gomez de Liano 4, Mantilla 3, Tungcab 2, Gob 0, Prado 0, Webb 0.

UE 75 -- Diakhite 28, Suerte 17, Manalang 10, Cruz 7, Conner 6, Antiporda 3, Pagsanjan 2, Tolentino 2, Abanto 0, Apacible 0, Mendoza 0.

Quarters: 27-10, 46-41, 65-50, 78-75.

EXTRA DRIBBLES

- UP head coach Bo Perasol served his second straight suspension and will still be unavailable against UST.

- The Red Warriors could not overcome their 22 turnovers, which gave the Fighting Maroons 32 additional points.

NEXT GAMES

UP - October 16 vs UST at MOA Arena

UE - October 16 vs DLSU at MOA Arena