BRIGHT Akhuetie powered the injury-hit University of the Philippines in beating University of Santo Tomas, 89-72, on Friday in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup at the Arena in San Juan City.
The reigning UAAP MVP put up an impressive double-double 17 points and 16 rebounds and kept the Maroons afloat late in the fourth quarter to deliver their fifth win in seven matches.
Kobe Paras also made his return from an ankle injury after a month finishing with 15 points from three triples, while Juan Gomez De Liaño added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists.
“We talked before the game about this being a good game for us because this gives us an opportunity to bounce back,” said UP assistant coach Ricky Dandan referring to another pre-season league. “We lost real bad to another UAAP team in another league. We set our sights on that, bouncing back. Bounce back they did.”
UP lost two players in the match as Jun Manzo sustained a right ankle with over two minutes to go in the second quarter and David Murrell falling down with the same injury after converting an and-one play in the 8:18 mark of the fourth quarter.
Both players didn’t return to action but the Maroons tightened their grip at the No.4 spot in Group A with a 5-2 win-loss record.
However, this was UP’s last match before flying abroad for their training camp in United States, Taiwan, and Serbia.
“We have a long way to go. We may have added Kobe, Ricci, Noah, but gaining cohesion and chemistry is not an overnight thing,” Dandan added.
Akhuetie kept UP afloat when UST big man Soulemane Chabi Yo scored four straight unanswered points trimming down the lead to just eight, 77-69. JD Tungcab stopped the bleeding with a jumper before Akhuetie scored back-to-back underneath for an 83-69 breather with 2:21 to go.
Gomez de Liaño brothers delivered the finishing touches with Juan hitting a lay-up for a 85-71 spread with 1:27 to go before Javi nailed the dagger three.
Rookie Rhenz Abando erupted with 24 points from five three pointers and had eight rebounds, three assists and two blocks, while Chabi Yo put up a double-double 23 and 10 as UST dropped to 1-4 record in Group A.
UP 89 - Akhuetie 17, Paras 15, Gomez de Liano Ju 10, Tungcab 8, Murrell 8, Spencer 7, Manzo 7, Webb 6, Prado 5, Jaboneta 3, Gomez de Liano Ja 3, Gob 0
UST 72 - Abando 24, Chabi Yo 23, Ando 9, Subido 6, Paraiso 5, Tarranza 3, Cosejo 2, Bataller 0, Huang 0, Pangilinan 0, Bordeos 0, Marcos 0, Talampas 0
QUARTER SCORES: 28-21, 43-37, 67-58, 89-72