MANILA, Philippines - National University showed that its crushing defeat to defending champion Ateneo was already a thing of the past by pummelling University of the Philippines, 67-50, in the 75th UAAP basketball tournament yesterday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
Reigning Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks, Jr. and Cameroonian center Emmanuel Mbe scored more than half of the Bulldogs' output but it was their stifling defense in the first half that made the difference.
Parks had 18 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals while Mbe added 17 points and 16 boards as NU rebounded from an 89-65 loss to the defending champion Blue Eagles on Sunday.
The Bulldogs, trumpeted as Ateneo's fiercest rivals for the title, were completely overpowered by the Eagles - thanks to the superb performance of Greg Slaughter.
But yesterday, it was NU's show from start to finish.
"We didn't play our best against Ateneo and it was like we were humbled," said NU coach Eric Altamirano. "But it was just one game and we just had to move on to the next game. It all boils down to our mental toughness."
NU scored 17 consecutive points in a seven-minute span during the second quarter to turn a 21-14 lead into a commanding 38-14 advantage with seconds before intermission.
The Maroons, who fell to 0-2, turned the ball over 12 times in the first two periods, allowing the Bulldogs to convert it into 17 points.
"Although things weren't falling for us on offense, the boys were focused on playing defense," Altamirano said.
UP fell behind by 28 points (56-28) early in the fourth but a minor comeback led by Mike Silungan after a sloppy windup by NU made it 57-41 with under five minutes to spare.
However, It was too little too late for State U.
"Credit to UP, we got out of sink from our offense with their defense," said Altamirano, whose team turned the ball over 17 times in the final two quarters.
Silungan and Jett Manuel scored 11 points apiece for the Maroons with guard Gelo Montecastro adding 10 markers.