By Mikhail Franz Flores

Miggy Maniego weeps while singing "UP Naming Mahal" as the Fighting Maroons lost the game against NU Bulldogs on Saturday, 66-70. (Christine Anne Penalosa)

At halftime, the UP Fighting Maroons were smiling as they finished with a 41-21 lead over the National University Bulldogs. But when team captain Woody Co was fouled out early in the third quarter, the game’s momentum shifted and their early jubilation ended in tears.

NU rallied from a 20-point deficit to stun the Maroons, 70-66, in their UAAP Season 73 basketball match at Fil-Oil Flying V Arena in San Juan City on Saturday as UP suffered its most heartbreaking loss in the season so far.

UP is now ranked at the bottom of the season roster, with seven losses at the end of the UAAP’s first round , duplicating their 2007 record, the year they lost all 14 games in the season.

Joseph Hermosissima poured in 13 points including a crucial three-pointer with 48.7 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Bulldogs grabbed the lead, 68-66, for the first time since the first quarter.

“I knew it would come in,” Hermosissima said after the match.

Joseph Terso sealed the fate of the Maroons after converting two crucial free throws off a foul from Joshua Saret with 14.8 seconds left in the game clock.

Emmanuel Mbe posted a double-double for the Bulldogs with 12 points and 11 rebounds.

Free throws

Martin Reyes shoots a three-point basket over Joseph Hermosisima and gave the Fighting Maroons a commanding lead in the first half against the Bulldogs, 41-21. (Christine Anne Penalosa)

“I reminded them of their commitment. If you’re still in it, this is now the time,” rookie coach Eric Gonzales said when asked how the team managed to get back on the match after a dismal first half.

Woody Co left the game at 8:53 minutes in the third quarter after fouling Melvin Baloran. Co, apparently annoyed by the call, cursed referee Raffy Britanico and was slapped a technical foul.

Baloran converted his four free-throws and Mbe finished a lay-up as NU scored six points in a single possession to shift the game’s momentum.

Martin Reyes led UP with 15 points, 9 from beyond-the arc, as the Maroons wrapped-up the first round at 0-7

Coach Boyet Fernandez took the blame on UP’s loss. “Win or lose, the blame is on me,” he said.

“The boys did well. I give credit to them,” he added.

The Maroons’ shooting sizzled in the second quarter as they scored 28 points in the period as their offensive attack was backed up with a solid defense that reduced NU to 11 points in the period.

The scores:

NU 70– Hermosissima 13, Mbe 12, Terso 12, Baloran 9, Khobuntin 6, Ponferrada 6, Eriobu 4, Malanday 3, Ludovice 2, Javillonar 2, Magat 1.

UP 66– Reyes 15, Padilla 11, Silungan 9, Lopez 8, Sison 6, Juruena 6, Hipolito 4, Gomez 4, Reyes, Mikee 2, Co 1, Saret 0, Maniego 0.

Quarter Scoring: 10-13, 21-41, 52-55, 70-66.

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