DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY displayed its big fighting heart to rout University of the Philippines (UP), 82-60, and force a sudden death Game 3 in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 86 men’s basketball finals on Sunday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After a stinging 67-97 lopsided beating they suffered in Game 1, the Green Archers bounced back big in Game 2 relying mostly on their deep bench to knot the best of three series witnessed by the 20,863 spectators.
“I guess we really don’t wanna end this Finals right away,” La Salle first year coach Topex Robinson said. “We just gave UP a good fight. Players really wanted it and they just tried to be prepared for the way it’s going to be. These guys played with their hearts out.”
La Salle — behind the hot shooting of Mark Nonoy and Joshua David in the third quarter — turned a slim 54-47 lead into a 65-49 advantage heading to the fourth. The Green Archers remained an immovable force in the last quarter as they were never relinquished their advantage from thereon.
New heroes though rose from La Salle while the starters struggled as Francis Escandor fired 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from beyond the arc, while Joshua David had 12 points and CJ Austria posted 11 points.
Escandor drilled three triples in the second quarter while Austria also contributed big time as the Green Archers outscored the Fighting Maroons, 20-11, for a 44-38 halftime lead.
It was notable that UP was held field goal-less in the first nine minutes and 46 seconds of the second quarter before CJ Cansino and Harold Alarcon made two baskets in the last 14 seconds. They, however, scored seven points from the line.
“I’m just really, really happy that we got the win. Coming from a big loss, we really wanted to bounce back no matter what, our mindset was we don’t want to lose this game. We really wanted to win and we showed it,” Davao-native Escandor said.
Kevin Quiambao went just 3-of-17 from the field but still ended up with nine points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks, while Evan Nelle also had a woeful shooting night with a 2-of-12 clip but managed to finish with four points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and five steals.
“Game 1 I’m ineffective. So I stepped aside and I turned to an off ball player. I was overwhelmed and excited because there’s a lot of work and learnings in this game. Overall, we compete,” Quiambao explained..
With Quiambao and Mike Phillips (nine points, 13 rebounds) forming a wall, La Salle flipped the rebounding battle after losing it in Game 1, 55-45, seizing 58 boards including 19 in the offensive end that turned into 16 second-chance points, while UP only got 46 rebounds.
The Green Archers also turned the story of three-point shots after their dismal 2-of-23 shooting from downtown in Game 1, going 12-of-38 from beyond the arc. They also held the Fighting Maroons down to a horrid 2-of-19 clip from beyond the three-point area.
Graduating players CJ Cansino and Malick Diuof paced UP with 11 points apiece with the Season 85 MVP also grabbing 11 rebounds and swatting two shots. Diouf fouled out in the closing moments of the game.
Harold Alarcon also added 10 points for UP.
For the final time this year, La Salle and UP will clash in the winner-take-all rubber match on Wednesday, 6 p.m., still at the historic Big Dome.