UNIVERSITY of the East strung up rare back-to-back wins in the UAAP Season 85 men's basketball tournament after taking down University of Santo Tomas, 78-68, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Luis Villegas unloaded 17 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and three steals. His dagger three-pointer with 1:28 remaining pushed the Red Warriors up by 13, 73-60.
Nikko Paranada also pumped in 17 points for UE which improved to a 3-2 win-loss record, defying preseason expectations to be in the thick of the Final Four race late in the first round.
This was the Red Warriors' first victory over the Growling Tigers since UAAP Season 80, a 96-91 victory back in Oct. 7, 2017.
It was also UE's first win streak since winning back-to-back games in UAAP Season 82, taking down National University, 78-72, in Sept. 29, 2019 and Adamson, 80-74 in Oct. 5, 2019.
Jojo Antiporda sparked the Red Warriors' third quarter pullaway and finished with a career-best 13 points on 3-of-7 shooting from distance, to go with three steals and two boards.
Harvey Pagsanjan also had his best game to date with five points and 11 rebounds, while Gani Stevens collected 11 points and four boards against his former team before fouling out with 3:51 remaining.
"Di ako makapaniwala eh," remarked coach Jack Santiago. "I want to congratulate all my boys. It's really a team effort, especially yung mga guys like Harvey and Antiporda na for the last four games, medyo talagang they were struggling. I'm so happy that nagising na sila, and really it's a team effort."
UE had to gut out this highly-physical affair especially tensions rising and even saw UST big man Adama Faye slapped with a disqualifying foul for elbowing Pagsanjan late in the third quarter.
Nic Cabanero shouldered the load for the Growling Tigers with his double-double of 19 points, 14 rebounds and four assists.
Ivan Lazarte chimed in 12 points and three boards, while Faye got 11 points and nine rebounds as UST incurred its fourth straight defeat to fall to 1-4.
UE 78 -- Villegas 17, N. Paranada 17, Antiporda 13, Stevens 11, Pagsanjan 5, Payawal 5, K. Paranada 4, Sawat 4, Abatayo 2, Beltran 0, Remogat 0, Guevarra 0, Alcantara 0, Langit 0, Lingo-lingo 0.
UST 68 -- Cabanero 19, Lazarte 12, Faye 11, Manalang 9, Pangilinan 8, Manaytay 5, Duremdes 2, Calimag 1, Mantua 1, Garing 0, Herrera 0.
Quarters: 10-13, 28-29, 55-49, 78-68.