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UP renews mastery over NU in Filoil

Harold Alarcon is now becoming a new key player for the Fighting Maroons. FilOil EcoOil Sports
By Mon Anthony L. Valmoria

MANILA—The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons are nearing their top form as they defeated familiar nemesis National University (NU) Bulldogs, 72-65, in the 2023 Filoil EcoOil Preseason Cup at the Filoil EcoOil Centre in San Juan City, Saturday.

In a rematch of the UAAP Season 85 Final Four, UP once again toughed out a gritty NU team. The Fighting Maroons beat the Bulldogs in every statistical category including rebounds (43-39), assists (23-17), and steals (7-6). 

Moreover, UP played stellar defense on NU's star point guard Kean Baclaan who was held scoreless. Baclaan notably scored a tournament-high 26 points against Ateneo last Thursday but UP made it hard for him Saturday, only going 0-5 from the field in 17 minutes.

Harold Alarcon continued his preseason run by leading the Fighting Maroons in scoring yet again with 16 points along with four assists, four rebounds, three steals, and a block.

Reigning UAAP MVP Malick Diouf supplanted Alarcon with 14 points in 20 minutes while JD Cagulangan chipped in seven points, five rebounds, and four assists in an unusual stint off the bench.

UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde stressed the importance of his team's defense which allowed them to pull away from NU. "Gumanda depensa namin sa dulo. For the first three quarters, depensa namin was very off. Good thing, pumick up yung defense," said Monteverde, as they limited the Bulldogs to 36.9 percent shooting from the field.

Patrick Wilson Yu filled in for Baclaan's production by scoring 16 points on 46 percent shooting while Ian Manansala added 12 points to pace the Bulldogs. 

Meanwhile, Mapua University and College of St. Benilde boosted their bids for the next round of the premier preseason tournament backed by Filoil, EcoOil, Hanes, Akari, Reyes BBQ, BDO, Kalos Sportswear, and Molten.

The Cardinals rode the broad shoulders of Warren Bonifacio to power through a slow start and put down Arellano University, 92-76.

The fifth-year big showed off his much-improved all-around game with 16 points, including a couple of triples, eight rebounds, and six assists to carry his side out of a nine-point hole early in the second quarter. They would go on to score more than 21 points in the last three periods en route to a bounce-back win that improves their Group I standing to 4-2.

"Kay Boni, sinasabi namin sa kanya, after etong last season niya na 'to, kailangan multi-talented na siya. Hindi na pwedeng kung big man ka, big man ka lang," said assistant coach Nani Epondulan, speaking for shot-caller Randy Alcantara.

Bonifacio was backstopped by the 18 points of Kobe Dalisay as well as a 12-point, 10-rebound, eight-assist outing by Clint Escamis.

The Blazers, on the other hand, came back from down eight points in the third quarter to frustrate San Beda University, 96-87.

Migs Oczon scored 24 points on top of 10 rebounds and four assists, and caught fire in the final frame with 13 points. Robi Nayve then chimed in 25 points and three rebounds of his own to help the green-and-white raise their Group I record to 5-2.

"We couldn't defend them in transition in the first half, but we did better in the second half. Migs hit big shots, Robi made big plays, and our guys stepped up," said head coach Charles Tiu.

With NCAA Season 98 MVP Will Gozum behind the bench for the first time in the tourney, Benilde was still trailing 82-84 with 5:30 to go before Oczon and Nayve connived for 11 unanswered points in the next four minutes for a 93-84 edge that proved to be the difference.

In another NCAA matchup, San Sebastian College-Recoletos got back on track in Group I by jumping on Jose Rizal University, 91-83.

Reggz Gabat did the heavy lifting with 23 points built on five treys to lead four other Golden Stags in double-digits, as they snapped their four-game slump to improve to 2-4.

"Pagdating ko sa Baste, day one, he was the earliest sa mga players and he was the last to go out. Sabi ko sa kanya, with his work ethic, 'di na pwedeng role player ka lang," said head coach John Kallos.

For the 0-6 Chiefs, Jude Bagay showed the way with 18 points.

For the 1-4 Heavy Bombers, Joshua Guiab topped the scoring column with 17 points, four rebounds, and three assists.

For the 2-4 Red Lions, Bryan Sajonia fronted the effort with 21 points and eight rebounds.

Follow him on Twitter: @Morval_

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