MANILA, Philippines – Malick Diouf possesses the talent to make up for his teammates’ errors and prolong important possessions.However, this season’s presumed MVP may end up accomplishing far more than what he had anticipated.
The reigning champions returned to the location of their victory in the UAAP men’s basketball finals on Wednesday thanks to Diouf’s outstanding performance, which helped the UP Fighting Maroons thrash a 69 to 61 victory against the National University Bulldogs.
“We’re back in the championship round. Good thing we caught up and won the game because we were having trouble in the first half, said Diouf after he poured in 17 points, grabbed 21 rebounds, added three blocks, and made two assists in a stellar all-around performance.
The Maroons defeated the Bulldogs 9 to 0 in the closing minutes, with JD Cagulangan finishing the victory with a free throw and a three-pointer in his preferred corner that was reminiscent of his valiant shot in the previous season’s championship game.
On the other end, NU simply couldn’t buy a basket, squandering all of their tries over a significant period of time and failing to score a field goal in the final four minutes.
“This victory is highly significant. We have the opportunity to create history by competing in back-to-back finals, said Gerry Abadiano, whose short jumper halfway through the fourth sparked UP’s significant run.
In place of Carl Tamayo, who twisted his ankle in the first quarter, Zavier Lucero made a significant contribution as well, scoring 12 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
The Maroons’ best-of-three championship series will square them against the winner of the other Final Four match between Ateneo and Adamson.
As the Maroons engaged in a footrace, the Bulldogs delivered an unexpected blitzkrieg early on, leading by almost double digits immediately in the first quarter.
However, it was Tamayo’s unintentional stepping on Michael Malonzo’s foot during a rebound scuffle that caused the most pain for the Maroons during that time.
With only five minutes remaining in the game, Tamayo was carried off the field, his right ankle sore and in excruciating pain. This silenced the UP supporters who had gathered in full force and apparently put the reigning champs on edge.
As Terrence Fortea, Lucero, and Diouf came together for a strong third-quarter performance for UP, the Maroons just prevented the Bulldogs from further establishing themselves in the second half.
The Fighting Maroons were already too far along in their momentum at this time, and Harold Alarcon sealed the victory by scoring two more points at the foul line.
“The team is just happy to have one more opportunity to grab the championship again. We simply thought that we began out flat in the game from a while ago. One thing, I think the group made progress from our starting point. Carl’s loss in the first half left him less than 100%. However, the squad accepted the challenge well. NU deserves praise and appreciation for their excellent season. They actually presented a challenge for us since they played so well, according to UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde. I’m quite proud of the team for not giving up during the game, regardless of how they played. “
The Bulldogs were led by John Figueroa’s 16-point performance, while Mike Malonzo and Baclaan each scored 14 and 11 points.
Scores at the end of the match:
UP with 69 points
Individual scores: Diouf 17, Lucero 12, Gonzales 11, Cagulangan 8, Abadiano 7, Fortea 6, Tamayo 6, Alarcon 2, Spencer 0, Galinato 0, Torculas 0
NU with 61 points
Individual scores: Figueroa 16, Baclaan 14, Malonzo 11, John 8, Yu 2, Clemente 2, Enriquez 2, Mahinay 2, Minerva 2, Galinato 2, Manansala 0, Palacielo 0, Tibayan 0
Scores per quarter
17 to 19, 35 to 38, 54 to 45, 69 to 61