NU, La Salle share No. 2 spot after back-to-back victories

By Maxine Louise Lagman

MANILA, Philippines – The National University (NU) and De La Salle University (DLSU) are both up the ladder after overpowering their contenders in the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament on Sunday, October 9, at Smart Araneta Coliseum.

NU survived a late comeback by University of Santo Tomas (UST), 69-63, to improve to 2-1 slate.

“We’re lucky we got that win kasi kahit papaano nakakatakot ‘yung UST hanggang dulo hindi sila bumibigay eh,” said NU head coach Jeff Napa.

The Bulldogs went for an 18-8 run in the fourth period for an 18-point advantage, 62-44, eight minutes left in the game. UST answered back with a 16-3 blast to inch within five, 60-65, with 17.4 seconds left.

NU’s John Lloyd Clemente sank two of his freebies, but Nic Cabanero answered yet again for UST with a triple, 63-67. But that proved to be the Growling Tigers’ last basket as NU put on the finishing touches for their win.

Kean Baclaan finished with 16 points, seven assists, and four steals, while Clemente added another 16 markers in NU’s win.

On the other hand, Adama Faye led the Growling Tigers with a double-double 20 points and 10 rebounds, along with four assists, and two blocks, while Cabanero had another double-double outing of 16 markers and 12 boards as UST dropped at 1-2 for fifth place with Adamson University and University of the East.

In the second game of the day, DLSU stunned Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU), 83-78. This is La Salle’s first win against the Blue Eagles since Game Two of the UAAP Season 80 Finals in 2017.

“The boys really worked hard. They believed they can beat Ateneo. Even though we were down, we were able to regroup in the second quarter,” said La Salle head coach Derrick Pumaren.

Down by 12 in the first quarter, the Green Archers went for a 13-0 run in the second quarter that gave them a 31-28 lead with 7:23 left.

DLSU then went on a 12-3 blast off a Schonny Winston jumper for a six-point lead, 79-73. Forthsky Padrigao responded with a triple for Ateneo, but Winston made another jumper that kept La Salle’s five-point lead, 81-76, 1:19 left.

The Blue Eagles came within three after a Kai Ballungay basket, but time eventually ran out, giving just enough to Evan Nelle who sank two of his freebies.

Winston led the squad with 25 points, five rebounds, six assists, and two steals, while Nelle chipped in 10 markers as La Salle improved to 2-1, joining NU and Ateneo at second.

Ange Kouame had 22 points, 12 rebounds, and four blocks, while Ballungay finished with a career-high 19 markers and 10 boards.

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