UAAP Season 75 hosts NU successfully fended off a late challenge from an emotionally-charged UP squad to win 65-60 as the Bulldogs picked up their eighth win of the season Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Reigning MVP Bobby Ray Parks had 17 points, six rebounds and four assists for NU, which currently stands in fourth place with an 8-5 mark. UP, which had eight players on the roster playing in their very last UAAP game, closed its season with a 1-13 mark.
The Bulldogs jumped out to huge leads as they held onto a sizeable 47-29 advantage with about two minutes remaining in the third period.
But UP, with several players including Mike Silungan, Alvin Padilla and Alinko Mbah seemingly determined to end their collegiate stints on a high note, refused to roll over for NU. Padilla and Jet Manuel sparked a comeback for the Fighting Maroons, knocking down three-pointers as they closed in to within just 10 points, 51-41, at the end of the third period.
UP opened the fourth with a 6-0 run, five of the points from Padilla, as they cut the deficit down to just four, 51-47, with eight and a half minutes left.
The team mostly exchanged baskets at that point, until Raul Soyud scored in the paint to keep UP within four, 61-57, with 2:28 remaining.
Parks drove to the basket and missed his attempt, but Emmanuel Mbe cleaned it up for NU, getting a second chance bucket for NU. Silungan, who nailed a difficult off-balanced jumper just two minutes earlier, missed a three-pointer for UP. On the other end, Parks came up short on a jumper to give the ball back to UP.
UP’s Chris Ball made a huge play, grabbing an offensive rebound and flipping the ball into the net, drawing a foul in the process. Ball sank his extra free throw to put the Fighting Maroons to within three, 63-60, with 1:06 left on the clock.
NU got a split from the charity stripe to restore a four-point lead. Soyud then missed on a shot, but the Maroons got the ball back after the Bulldogs threw the ball away.
Padilla tried to bring UP closer, but missed from beyond the arc with 11 seconds remaining and NU sealed the win with another free throw from Gelo Alolino.
With the win, NU stayed a step ahead of La Salle for the last spot in the semifinals, although the Green Archers have the chance to tie the Bulldogs with a victory in the second game.