MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATED) National University (NU) may have failed to live up to preseason expectations, but the Bulldogs still ended UAAP Season 81 on a high note by beating University of the East (UE), 79-71, on Sunday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
In the last game of the season for both squads, the Bulldogs seized control in the second quarter and never looked back. They ended the men's basketball tournament in seventh place with a 4-10 win-loss record.
Meanwhile, the Red Warriors finished with a 1-13 record, their worst season in the Final 4 era. UE never managed to get back on track after a shock triumph over Far Eastern University in the first round.
Fil-Am forward Troy Rike — playing his last UAAP game — led the Bulldogs with a career-best 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Issa Gaye added 12 points and a season-high eight blocks.
After taking a slim 21-17 lead at the end of the first quarter, the Bulldogs imposed their will in the second frame behind their frontcourt. Gaye and Rike combined for 17 points in the frame, with Rike repeatedly burning UE with his long jumpers — including a shot with 25 seconds left that made it a 10-point game, 42-32.
Mohammad Salim beat the buzzer to give NU a 12-point cushion, 44-32, at the half.
The Red Warriors came to within five points, 49-44, with four minutes to go in the third frame after Philip Manalang drained a turnaround jumper, but NU responded with a 9-0 blast — again anchored by Rike and Gaye — to push the lead back to double-digits, 58-44.
NU cruised from there, with the Bulldogs pouncing on UE's inability to defend without fouling to score from the charity stripe. They made 20 of 27 free throws; as a team, the Red Warriors shot just eight charities, making two of them.
In what may be his final UAAP game, UE star Alvin Pasaol scored 20 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. He finished with a scoring average of 24.4 points per game, the highest of any local player since 2003.
Chris Conner had 19 points, while Rey Acuno added 11 and Jason Varilla added 10.
NU 79 – Rike 17, Gaye 12, Ildefonso D 9, Ildefonso S 9, Aquino 7, Yu 6, Salim 6, Diputado 5, Galinato 4, Clemente 2, Tibayan 2, Morido 0, Joson 0, Malonzo 0
UE 71 – Pasaol 20, Conner 19, Acuno 11, Varilla 10, Manalang 7, Bartolome 2, Guion 2, Cullar 0, Maloles 0, Gallardo 0, Strait 0
Quarter scores: 21-17, 44-32, 58-46, 79-71
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