The UP Fighting Maroons inched closer to a Final Four spot after surviving a late rally from the already-eliminated NU Bulldogs, 80-77, in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Fighting Maroons clinched at least a playoff for a semifinals berth as they climbed to an 8-4 record.
Kobe Paras topped anew with 19 points, four rebounds, and six assists. Bright Akhuetie delivered 16 points and 12 boards, while Jun Manzo chipped in 14 points including three clutch free throws that helped seal the win.
"It's very clear, going deeper into the playoffs, we're going to need better games from us, defensively most especially," said UP head coach Bo Perasol. "But in the end, what's important is how we win in the end. I'm glad that we are able to get this eighth win, but at the same time, we're looking forward to another game on Sunday."
The Fighting Maroons built a seven-point lead with 3:02 left after a booming triple from Paras, but a 5-0 spurt from Dave Ildefonso and JV Gallego pushed the Bulldogs within two, 77-75, in the final minute.
Manzo and Shaun Ildefonso nailed a couple of free throws each to keep the game close. Time was not on NU's side but a window was left open when Manzo split his next free throws with 10.7 seconds remaining.
With no timeout left, the Bulldogs had to run the floor, leading to a failed 3-point shot attempt from Shaun as time expired.
"I'm tempted to say that it wasn't a game I was foreseeing but you know, I'm also aware how good NU is," said Persol. "Despite the fact that they're already out of contention, their spirit is just there. You have to give it to coach Jamike (Jarin) for motivating his players despite that fact."
Dave churned out 25 points, six rebounds, and six assists in the loss that dropped NU to a 2-10 slate. Gallego added 20 points and five boards.
UP 80 -- Paras 19, Akhuetie 16, Manzo 14, Ju. Gomez de Liano 11, Rivero 8, Webb 5, Ja. Gomez de Liano 4, Prado 3, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0, Murrell 0, Tungcab 0.
NU 77 -- D. Ildefonso 24, Gallego 20, Oczon 12, S. Ildefonso 10, Gaye 6, Joson 2, Minerva 2, Galinato 1, Clemente 0, Diputado 0, Malonzo 0, Mangayao 0, Rangel 0, Yu 0.
Quarters: 13-11, 32-25, 56-51, 80-77.
- Juan Gomez de Liaño finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 boards on top of six assists. He helped UP establish a 48-35 edge in rebounding.
- The Fighting Maroons also dominated in assists, 21-11, with Paras and Juan accounting for six apiece.
- UP can clinch the no. 2 seed with a win over La Salle on Sunday.
UP - October 27 (Sunday) vs La Salle at Ynares Center Antipolo
NU - October 26 (Saturday) vs Ateneo at Ynares Center Antipolo