UNIVERSITY of the Philippines played inspired ball and pulled off a 98-87 upset win over defending champion La Salle on Saturday in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Paul Desiderio led the Maroons with 30 points while the entire team contributed to the team's cause.
The Maroons hit 16 triples, tying the most number of threes in the league since the current UAAP statistics group was appointed in 2003.
A cloud of uncertainty hangs over the huge win, however, with Rob Ricafort playing a day after getting a Temporary Restraining Order on the UAAP's decision that declared him ineligible to play this season.
It was the first time UP beat La Salle since the Maroons won, 71-66, against a team that still didn't have Ben Mbala and head coach Aldin Ayo.
The win was also the first by UP over the reigning champion since the Maroons did in in 2009, defeating Ateneo at the PhilSports Arena.
Jun Manzo had with 17 points, while brothers Juan and Javi Gomez De Liano each had 10 points for the Maroons, who are now tied for second with the Green Archers at 3-1 behind unbeaten Ateneo (3-0).
UP coach Bo Perasol lauded his players for believing that they have a chance to win against the defending champions.
"Alam nila that we can compete with the powerhouse La Salle team. We were able to execute what we have planned. Ang importante, no matter what happened during the game, we didn't panic," said Perasol.
Desiderio hit back-to-back triples to put the Maroons ahead, 57-52.
Janjan Jaboneta also hit two consecutive threes in the fourth to take a 79-71 lead, before Manzo drilled another one from long distance to put the game away, 86-77.
UP spoiled the play of Mbala, who notched a new UAAP career-high 34 points, making 4 of 8 shots from threes.
UP 98 - Desiderio 30, Manzo 17, Ju. Gomez de Liano 10, Ja. Gomez de Liano 10, Lim 6, Ouattara 6, Jaboneta 6, Dario 5, Romero 4, Ricafort 2, Prado 2, Harris 0, Vito 0, Lao 0.
La Salle 87 - Mbala 34, Caracut 15, Ri. Rivero 12, P. Rivero 9, Melecio 5, Montalbo 5, Santillan 5, Paraiso 2, Tratter 0, Go 0.
Quarterscores: 18-27; 47-43; 66-65; 98-87.