After a first half scare, the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons pulled away from the University of the East (UE) Red Warriors in the second half, crushing them, 87-58, in their first win of the season in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament today at the Mall of Asia Arena.

State U started the game strong, going 10-0, but the Red Warriors answered with an 8-2 run of their own to trim the lead to four, 12-8.

Two three-pointers from reigning Rookie of the Year Juan Gomez de Liano capped off the scoring for the Fighting Maroons in the first frame to help keep UE at bay to end at 18-13, UP.

The Fighting Maroons continued to push the pace in the following quarter, culminating with the alley-oop connection between the younger Gomez de Liano and rookie David Murrell which pushed the lead to 11, 28-17. However, UE subsequently went on a 14-0 run, taking the lead on a trey from Mark Maloles, 28-29.

Timely buckets from Bright Akhuetie and Javi Gomez de Liano allowed UP to take the lead once again, but not for long, as UE’s Allan Beltran nailed a jumper at the buzzer to tie the game at the half, 33-all.

The halftime break did wonders for the Diliman squad as their offense came out red-hot, allowing them to pull away from the Red Warriors. With the score at 50-45 in favor of UP and second year gunner Jun Manzo scoring all 13 of his points during that spurt, UP pushed their lead to 22, 70-48.

The Fighting Maroons only went up from there and ended the game with a 29-point lead, 87-58.

“We just had to remind ourselves that we know what to do, regardless if it’s going to be man or zone”, said coach Bo Perasol of the struggles during the second-quarter. “There’s nothing out there that we haven’t prepared [for].”

Despite an uneven effort from captain Paul Desiderio, who scored a mere 12 points, Juan Gomez De Liano and the debuting Bright Akhuetie led the way for the Maroons scoring 16 points and posting a monster double-double with 15 points and 18 boards, respectively.

Alvin Pasaol paced the Red Warriors with 14 points.

“We can’t really get too excited right now. It’s just the first game, so let’s just have to go back, and work hard, and see how far we’ll go”, Akhuetie exclaims.

The Fighting Maroons may prove just how far they could go in their next game on Wednesday, September 12, against the defending UAAP champions, the Ateneo De Manila University (ADMU) Blue Eagles, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum. TNP

Photo Kezhia Maglasang

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