UNIVERSITY of the Philippines staved off a game rally from Far Eastern University to take the 61-55 victory in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Bright Akhuetie buried the go-ahead hook with 1:35 to play before Jun Manzo canned four freebies in the last 10.6 ticks as the Fighting Maroons escaped with the tight six-point victory.
The victory salvaged the superb showing from Javi Gomez de Liano, who fired 22 points, six rebounds, and three assists in a statement game to overshadow his fancied new peers.
"There were a lot of times that Javi bailed us out. I don't think I would like to be happy with how we executed things, but the way Javi scored against FEU was what bailed us out," said coach Bo Perasol.
Manzo added nine points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals, while Akhuetie, the reigning UAAP MVP, just missed out on a double-double with his seven points and 11 rebounds as UP held on to the win despite squandering a 38-27 halftime lead.
"We could have done better but it's just the first game. We're too excited and if we want to get to where we were last year, we have to play better defense," said Perasol.
The Fighting Maroons missed the services of much-talked about rookie Kobe Paras, who sat out the opener due to a right ankle sprain.
Brandrey Bienes topped the Tamaraws with nine points, three rebounds, two assists, while L-Jay Gonzales had eight points, seven boards, six assists and two steals,
Cameroonian big man Patrick Tchuente had eight points, 14 rebounds, and two rejections in his FEU debut.
UP 61 - Ja. Gomez de Liano 22, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 7, Rivero 7, Murrell 6, Ju. Gomez de Liano 6, Webb 3, Prado 1, Mantilla 0, Tungcab 0, Spencer 0.
FEU 55 - Bienes 9, Gonzales 8, Tchuente 8, Comboy 8, Tuffin 6, Torres 6, Cani 5, Ebona 3, Celzo 2, Alforque 0.
Quarterscores: 20-17; 38-27; 47-44; 61-55.