UAAP: NU bounces back, deals Ateneo another loss
MANILA, Philippines–Jake Figueroa hit the shots that mattered most as National University survived Ateneo by the skin of its teeth, 65-61, on Saturday night in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball.
Figueroa buried a go-ahead three and coolly sank the game-clinching free throws with 3.4 seconds remaining, definitive efforts that bolstered the stance of the Bulldogs while putting the defending champions on eggshells for the remainder of the tournament.
Rookie Reinhard Jumamoy also sparkled, jumping at the chance in subbing for injured starting guard Steve Nash Enriquez with a near-impeccable performance that helped the second-running Bulldogs safely comfortable at 8-2.
“I can say that it was a hard-fought win. Last time, we obviously lack the effort and we really emphasized that during our conversations with the team,” said NU coach Jeff Napa after bouncing back from a piercing defeat against the La Salle Green Archers.
“Tonight, we filled up all the things we lacked.”
Jumamoy nailed his first eight of 10 shots, including five threes, in top scoring with 21 points while Figueroa scored 11 of his 18 in the payoff period punctuated by that crucial five-point swing in the final minute.
“He’s (Enriquez) our leader and we look up to him. I just made the most out of the opportunity and the trust the coaches gave me,” said Jumamoy, last season’s UAAP junior’s MVP with the NU Bullpups.
Joseph Obasa finished with 11 points and Kai Ballungay added 10 for the Blue Eagles, who had several opportunities to turn everything around but just couldn’t deliver.
Jared Brown flubbed what seemed like an easy layup on a break off a steal, but the dagger for Ateneo came when a driving Chris Koon opted to pass to a cutting Balungay instead of taking it strong to the hoop before the leather was deflected and landed on Figueroa’s hands.
The Blue Eagles absorbed their third straight defeat, landing fifth with a 4-6 record, the first time they lost three games in a row since Season 76.
It was likewise the first time NU swept the Blue Eagles in a season after achieving the trick back in 2014.
Nash dislocated his jaw against the University of the East Warriors and had gone through surgery.
The flashy 5-foot-8 guard is expected to suit up in a month’s time, allowing Jumamoy to prove that his magnificence isn’t a flash in a pan.