CEBU CITY —University of San Carlos moved closer to a return trip to the finals after demolishing Southwestern University, 85-66, at the start of the round-robin semifinals of the 15th Cesafi men’s basketball tournament on Tuesday at the Cebu Coliseum.
Against an undersized frontline that was without the injured Filipino-Samoan bruiser Juju Bautista, USC’s Cameroonian import Shooster Olago and Charles Pepito feasted inside with the former finishing with 23 points and 14 rebounds and the latter adding 14 markers and 19 boards.
Ian Ortega sank six three-pointers, three coming in a fiery 24-7 third period run that gave the Warriors a 55-36 lead.
The Warriors got off to a fast 19-9 start which rose to 31-20, seconds into the second half. But the defending champions showed some fight and crawled to within four, 27-31, after a steal and a breakaway lay-up by guard John Lloyd Luz.
However, that was the last time SWU got close as veteran forward Nico Magat started a run with a three-pointer from the right wing followed by another triple from the corner by Ortega that raised the lead back to double-figures.
Compounding the Cobras’ woes was the ejection of Janjan Auditor, who was caught punching Ortega in the gut. This meant an automatic one-game suspension, and the Cobras will be a seven-man crew for the game against the University of San Jose-Recoletos Jaguars on Thursday.
SWU had only four healthy players in the waning seconds as rookie Toto Gonzaga and Kier Clam fouled out while Luz sat on the sidelines with leg cramps.
Mac Racho stepped up for the Cobras with 22 points while two-time league MVP Mac Tallo added 14 markers. Luz and Auditor had 12 apiece.
USC 85 — Olago 23, Ortega 19, Pepito 14, Magat 8, Tagapan 8, Laguyo 3, Oleodo 3, Suarez 2, McAloney 2, Lim 2, Maconocido 1, Rabat 0.
SWU 63 — Racho 22, Tallo 14, Auditor 12, Luz 12, Clam 4, Holper 2, Gonzaga 0, Pardo 0.
Quarterscores: 19-9; 29-20; 59-40; 85-63.