NATIONAL University slayed the beast that was University of the Philippines, inflicting on the defending champions their first loss of the season via 80-75 victory on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Steve Nash Enriquez made a triumphant UAAP Season 85 men's basketball debut for the Bulldogs as he drained the game-sealing free throws with 13.4 seconds remaining to cap a ferocious show from the Jhocson-based side.
"Good win for us. At least kumbaga, we beat a very tough team talaga," said NU coach Jeff Napa, sounding relieved after the Bulldogs finally snuffed the comeback of the Fighting Maroons.
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"That's why they're [the] defending champions. Up to the last minute, talagang nag-bleed kami ng kung ano kailangan naming gawin para manalo."
Senegalese center Omar John had his best game to date with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and two steals, highlighting it with the big jumper that put NU ahead by six, 78-72, with 1:24 remaining.
Carl Tamayo tried to will his team back in the game, draining a three to cut the lead down, 78-75. But he missed his drive and Jake Figueroa blocked Terrence Fortea's three-point attempt before Enriquez put on the finishing touches to this massive triumph that forced a three-way tie for the top spot with UP and Ateneo at 3-1.
Kean Baclaan added 13 points, four rebounds, four assists, and two steals, Figueroa made big plays on the defensive end and contributed 10 points, five boards, five assists, two steals, and two rejections, and Enriquez had 10 points, two dimes, and two steals in his first game from a hamstring injury.
NU led by as much as 12 points but saw that lead slashed after UP staged a 22-4 run to take a 66-60 lead at the 1:08 mark of the third.
But the Bulldogs answered by scoring 13 unanswered points to retake the lead and seize a 73-66 advantage midway through the final canto.
Zavier Lucero led the Fighting Maroons with 22 points and eight rebounds, as Tamayo recorded a double-double of 17 points and 11 boards.
NU 80 - John 16, Baclaan 13, Figueroa 10, Enriquez 10, Minerva 6, Clemente 6, Malonzo 5, Yu 4, Galinato 4, Mahinay 2, Manansala 2, Tibayan 2, Padrones 0, Palacielo 0.
UP 75 - Lucero 22, Tamayo 17, Abadiano 11, Alarcon 9, Diouf 7, Fortea 6, Gonzales 2, Spencer 1, Galinato 0, Ramos 0, Calimag 0.
Quarters: 23-24, 50-42, 66-66, 80-75.