Pressure wasn’t one of them.
The UP Fighting Maroons came out on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay looking steady and confident.
Well, they were all that and more, as they outclassed the NU Bulldogs, 79-57. In the process, the hoopers from Diliman secured the number one seed and a twice-to-beat edge in the Final Four of UAAP Season 86 with a 12-2 record.
In contrast to the thrilling first game between the Adamson Soaring Falcons and the UE Red Warriors, the headliner was a one-sided affair. UP ran like a well-oiled machine, with high-flying rookie Francis Lopez, scoring 13 points to lead their balanced attack.
“We tried to improve pa rin as a team. I felt from the start, although may challenges during the game, as a team we played well, we played together, and we just have to sustain it,” UP coach Goldwin Monteverde said in a media release.
With Malick Diouf and CJ Cansino backstopping Lopez with 11 markers apiece, the Bulldogs really had their hands full all game long.
“Ito na ‘yung consistency hinahanap namin buong season. Hopefully, mas maging consistent kami sa mga paparating na games kasi ‘yun ‘yung pinakamahalaga,” Cansino said.
“Nagtiwala lang kami sa work, sa mga trinabaho ng coaches, sa practice plan, and masaya kami na lumabas (lahat) sa game na ‘to,” added the graduating captain.
If there ever was a doubt on who’s the best basketball team in the UAAP in the past few days, especially with the Green Archers' undefeated run in the second round, the Fighting Maroons may have just answered it with their statement victory over NU.
It's the first time State U ended atop the ladder at the end of the elimination round in the Final Four era.
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UP will have to wait for the winner of the sudden-death encounter between Adamson and the Ateneo Blue Eagles on Wednesday to determine its challenger in the Final Four.
The Bulldogs, on the other hand, dropped to number three at 10-4 and will face twice-to-beat La Salle.
The Final Four will begin on Saturday.(PM)