IN NUMBERS: UP vs FEU – UAAP Season 81
MANILA, Philippines – One team is riding high on newfound momentum. The other? Fizzling out and teetering on the brink of disaster.
The UP Fighting Maroons are holding on to a share of 5th place with a 4-5 win-loss slate in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament. However, only one game separates the Maroons from the 5-4 FEU Tamaraws, who are hanging for dear life at the 3rd spot.
And this matchup couldn’t have arrived at a worse time for the Tamaraws.
UP just came off the heels of a 94-81 rout of the last-place UE Red Warriors. History was made as super sophomore guard Juan Gomez de Liaño exploded for 15 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists to record the league’s first triple-double in 12 years.(READ: After halftime scolding, Juan Gomez de Liaño rolls to triple-double)
Leading MVP candidate Bright Akhuetie was no slouch either as he tallied a career-best 28 points to go with 14 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks.
You either stop UP with good defense or a better offense, and right now, FEU is missing the two cogs they most badly need to get the machine running on both ends of the floor.
On the offensive end, the Tamaraws are still missing their leading scorer Arvin Tolentino, who will serve the second of a two-game suspension after incurring his second straight ejection against UST. While he is only averaging 19.9 minutes a game mostly off the bench, he is also the only FEU player to average double-digits in scoring with 11.7 per contest.
Things aren’t better either on D, as their Nigerian center Prince Orizu – their only hope of stopping Akhuetie – went down with an apparent leg injury in their most recent loss against Ateneo. Orizu is almost automatic on offense as well, leading the league with an astounding 73.3% shooting clip across 8 games. (READ: Racela, FEU hoping for best after Orizu injury)
So, who is left?
Don’t be fooled by his 9.1 scoring average, Wendell Comboy can turn up the offense in a jiffy and will have his hands full containing Gomez de Liaño. Along with his other partners-in-crime guards like Hubert Cani, Jasper Parker and L-Jay Gonzales, Comboy will look to shoulder a way heavier offensive load against a healthy UP side in the 4 pm match on Wednesday, October 24, at the Araneta Coliseum.
Meanwhile, Gomez de Liaño – the league’s assist leader with a 4.4 dimes average – should have no problem maintaining those numbers up due to a lot of offensive options like Akhuetie, Paul Desiderio, Jun Manzo and his brother Javi, who's returning from a one-game suspension.
At this point, it’s a matter of survival for the banged-up Tamaraws, because if UP wins, they’ll suddenly enter a two-way tie for 4th place with identical 5-5 records.
However, FEU is the only team so far to have defeated both Ateneo and Adamson, the two teams tied at the top with a pair of 7-2 records. Needless to say, it would be really unwise to count them out before the buzzer even sounds. – Rappler.com