UP weathers gallant NU stand, returns to UAAP finals

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 7) — The University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons are going back to the UAAP men's basketball finals after hacking out a tough 69-61 win over a resilient National University (NU) Bulldogs in their Final Four match Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City.

Presumptive Season 85 Most Valuable Player Malick Diouf did the heavy lifting for the Fighting Maroons with 17 points, 21 rebounds, and three blocks.

It was a close contest in the first half, with the Bulldogs holding on to a three-point advantage at the break.

With the game tied at 61 in the fourth period, NU's Omar John's costly turnover led to a Gerry Abadiano fast break lay-up to give UP a 63-61 edge.

Last season's finals hero JD Cagulangan once again showed why he's a clutch player after burying a cold-blooded three-pointer to push the Fighting Maroons' lead to five, 66-61, with 53.3 seconds left in the final frame.

Harold Alarcon sank the two game-sealing free throws for UP, that was part of a 13-2 run to close out the match.

Zavier Lucero added 12 points, while Cyril Gonzales chipped in 11 markers for the Fighting Maroons, who will be marching on to their third trip to the finals in the last four seasons.

John Figueroa paced the Bulldogs with 16 points and 14 rebounds.

UP will face the winner between the other Final Four match up between top seed Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and Adamson University Soaring Falcons.