UNIVERSITY of the Philippines has shown it can hurdle adversity and pull off come-from-behind wins this season.
The Fighting Maroons’ resolve will be tested anew when they tackle the National University Bulldogs today in their bid to boost their hold of solo second in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The match is set at 10:30 a.m. before Far Eastern University and Adamson University clash in a crucial tiff at 12:30. University of Santo Tomas battles La Salle in another equally-important duel at 4 p.m.
“This is a big win for us. But we need to focus on the next one,” UP coach Bo Perasol said after his wards battled back from a 12-point fourth quarter deficit to eke out a thrilling 81-77 decision over Adamson University last Oct. 20 that improved the Maroons’ record to 7-4.
“This is going to be for naught if we don’t catch up with the others,” he added.
The likes of 6-foot-6 forward Kobe Paras, reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie, Jun Manzo, Ricci Rivero and Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño are expected to lead UP’s fight.
NU absorbed a 76-88 loss to University of Santo Tomas last Oct. 19 that eliminated the Bulldogs from Final Four contention for the fourth straight season.
The Bulldogs will rely on brothers Dave and Shaun Ildefonso, Issa Gaye, John Lloyd Clemente, and Enzo Joson, and Miguel Oczon to improve their lowly 2-9 card.
The Maroons edged NU 80-79 in their first meeting last Sept. 18.
With a 6-6 slate for fourth, the Tamaraws are coming off an 81-60 thrashing of the Green Archers last Oct. 19.
FEU coach Olsen Racela said his team will play on a must-win mode.
“We have three games left. All of those games are actually do-or-die games if we want to make it to the Final Four,” said Racela.
“We’re gonna prepare hard against them (Falcons). That’s a well-coached team. They run their system very well. Mahihirapan kami just like our other games. Basta lang hindi bibigay itong players and follow our game plan, I think we will be okay.”
The Tams will bank on L-Jay Gonzales, Kenneth Tuffin, Wendell Comboy, and Xyrus Torres.
The Soaring Falcons, who have a 4-7 mark, will pin their hopes on Fil-Peruvian guard Valandre Chauca, Jerrick Ahanmisi, Simon Camacho, and Jerom Lastimosa.
FEU downed Adamson 83-71 when they first met last Sept. 28.
Renzo Subido, high-flying forward Soulemane Chabi Yo, Rhenz Abando, CJ Cansino, and Mark Nonoy will be counted upon by the Growling Tigers to deliver as they try to hike their 7-5 card and solidify their hold of solo third.
La Salle will lean on Andrei Caracut, Aljun Melecio, Justine Baltazar, Jamie Malonzo, and Encho Serrano as it aims to improve its 5-6 record.