University of the Philippines boosted its drive for a playoff incentive in the coming UAAP Season 86 Men's Basketball Final Four after cruising past University of Santo Tomas, 86-61, Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
The Fighting Maroons clinched at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat edge after they grabbed their third straight win to improve to 11-2 for solo lead, half a game ahead of National University, which will play Adamson University later at 6 p.m.
UP and NU will collide in the final game of eliminations on Sunday at the same Pasay venue for a sure twice-to-beat edge in the semis.
"After this game, we're just focused on what we can still improve going towards our next game. Alam naman namin yung importance nung next game na darating sa amin but we just have to be consistent, yun naman nagiging problem," said UP head coach Goldwin Monteverde.
Already ahead by 12 at halftime, the Fighting Maroons drowned the Growling Tigers even more with a huge third quarter that stretched the advantage to 69-47 entering the fourth.
Monteverde fielded all 15 players with all but two entering the scoring column led by Chicco Briones' 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting from the field.
"I appreciate [the trust of Coach Goldwin] so much. It was an opportunity to give my best and I had to take that and put my heart out on the court," said Briones, who played for 13 minutes and 58 seconds.
Cyril Gonzales added 10 points, while Mark Belmonte and CJ Cansino chimed in nine points apiece.
Francis Lopez and Janjan Felicilda also produced all-around performances, with the former tallying eight points, nine rebounds, four assists, two steals, and a block; while the latter contributed six points, eight assists, four rebounds, and a steal.
The Growling Tigers, who did not have coach Pido Jarencio due to illness, suffered their sixth consecutive defeat to fall to 1-12.
Nic Cabañero and Christian Manaytay netted 14 points apiece in the losing cause while Migs Pangilinan added 13 points as well.
UST will end its campaign against Far Eastern University, the lone team it has defeated, on Saturday at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.
UP 86 – Briones 14, Gonzales 10, Cansino 9, Belmonte 9, Lopez 8, Alter 7, Diouf 6, Felicilda 6, Fortea 6, Alarcon 4, Torres 4, Abadiano 2, Torculas 1, Cagulangan 0, Pablo 0.
UST 61 – Cabañero 14, Manaytay 14, Pangilinan 13, Duremdes 5, Laure 5, Calum 4, Llemit 3, Manalang 2, Moore 1, Crisostomo 0, Lazarte 0, Magdangal 0, Esmena 0.
Quarterscores: 24-18, 44-32, 69-47, 86-61