MANILA, Philippines – The new-look UP Fighting Maroons opened their UAAP Season 81 campaign with an 87-58 rout of the UE Red Warriors at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, September 8.
Cebuano hotshot Jun Manzo sparked a 12-3 run to open the 4th quarter as the Maroons zoomed to a 22-point lead, 70-48, off back-to-back and-one layups.
The scattered Warriors scrambled to regain control, but UP repeatedly penetrated their defense inside to seal the deal.
Juan Gomez de Liano, last season's Rookie of the Year, stuffed the stat sheet with a team-high 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
"This is just the start," said UP head coach Bo Perasol. "I'm just happy that we're able to get this win and I hope that we could capitalize on this momentum that we have."
Highly-touted reinforcement Bright Akhuetie was as dominant as advertised, posting a 15-point, 18-board double-double with 3 blocks. Manzo was efficient in 19 minutes, chipping in 13 markers and 2 dimes.
After a 10-0 start by UP in the 1st period, UE settled down and inched within 3 at the start of the 2nd, 15-18. They built on this momentum and seized their first lead of the game, 29-28, with 2:40 left before the half.
However, they would not come close to this lead again after a 25-12 third-quarter outburst by the Maroons, ending with a 58-45 advantage entering the 4th.
"It took us two quarters to figure out [the game]," said Perasol. "Probably it's just part of the first-game jitters, but we just had to remind ourselves [that] we know what to do. We practiced the whole offseason, that's almost a year, and there's nothing out there that we haven't prepared."
"I have to commend UE and coach Joe [Silva]," he added. "They just prepared a couple of months back, but they were able to fight back that time."
A noticeably slimmed-down Alvin Pasaol was the lone UE player in double-digits with 14, although he was limited to 3 points for the entire second half. Jose Antiporda added 9 off the bench for the Warriors.
UP 87 – Gomez de Liano Ju. 16, Akhuetie 15, Manzo 13, Desiderio 12, Gomez de Liano Ja. 10, Vito 7, Murrell 6, Lim 2, Tungcab 2, Prado 2, Gozum 2, Dario 0, Spencer 0, Jaboneta 0, Espanola 0, Longa 0.
UE 58 – Pasaol 14, Antiporda 9, Beltran 8, Manalang 6, Varilla 6, Bartolome 4, Maloles 4, Cullar 3, Conner 2, Acuno 2, Gallardo 0, Lacap 0.
Quarters: 18-13, 33-33, 58-45, 87-58.