DECOY LOPEZ hit a crucial free throw in the dying seconds as Jose Rizal University survived Mapua, 65-64, in the nightcap of the 88th NCAA men’s basketball tournament opener at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Saturday night.
The JRU skipper scored a team-high 20 points, but none was more important than his charity shot with 39.2 seconds left that lifted the Bombers to the thrilling win.
“He really took charge in the last minute,” Bombers coach Vergel Meneses said of Lopez. “Pinakita niya talaga ang leadership niya.”
Rookie Andoy Estrella starred for Mapua, scoring 22 points including the floater that tied the count at 64.
It was a see-saw game throughout with 11 lead changes and eight deadlocks.
The Cardinals stayed toe to toe with the Bombers and led 50-48, entering the fourth quarter.
Recruits Gab Banal, Joseph Eriobu, Jessie Saitanan and Mark Brana were unable to play as their credentials were in question.
“It was a tough win,” Meneses said. “Hats off to Mapua."
Nate Matute and Byron Villarias contributed 16 and 11 points, respectively, for the Bombers.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year, Josan Nimes, was the other double-digit scorer for Mapua with 13 points.
JRU 65 – Lopez 20, Matute 16, Villarias 11, Monserat 5, Mabulac 4, Carampil 4, Camasura 3, Dela Paz 2, Almario 0, Mendoza 0, Maconocido 0, Salaveria 0, Porter 0
MIT 64 – Estrella 22, Nimes 13, Ighalo 9, Chien 7, Stevens 7, Parala 3, Banal 2, Abad 1, Cantos 0, Layug 0
Quarter scores: 21-14, 36-39, 48-50, 65-64