Warriors keep defending UAAP champion Bulldogs winless

UE coach Derrick Pumaren piloted the Warriors to an upset win against defending UAAP champion NU Bulldogs on Saturday. File Photo

MANILA, Philippines -- University of the East continued the giant-killing trend in the UAAP Season 78 men's basketball tourney, thwarting defending champion National U, 76-71, Saturday at the MOA Arena.

Rookie Bon-bon Batiller fired 14 of his 23 points in the third quarter as the Warriors seized a 14-point lead behind a 28-9 exchange and hung tough down the stretch to improve to 1-1.

The Bulldogs suffered their second straight loss, the worst start since coach Eric Altamirano assumed reins in 2010.

UE's victory was the latest in a series of upsets in the new season, joining earlier reversals pulled off by co-leaders University of the Philippines and Santo Tomas over fancied La Salle and Far Eastern U, respectively, last Wednesday.

"I challenged the guys at halftime, tried to push them to show their worth and play to their potential and they responded. We had a great third quarter; We were hitting the big here-points shots, we tightened our defense, made NU throw the ball over and took advantage of it," said UE mentor Derrick Pumaren, who scored his first win at the Pasay venue.

Batiller, a prized find from General Santos, overcame grief from a death in the family to provide the heroics for upset-conscious UE. Batiller made four of his eight attempts from beyond the arc today, joining forces with veteran Paul Varilla in their third-quarter breakaway. He also hit a crucial jumper that restored a 70-64 cushion for UE going to the last 2:07.

"Parang sinabi ko sa kuya ko bantayan mo ako, ibibigay ko ang best ko," said Batiller, referring to his cousin Bonivic, who died in Gensan this week.

Varilla, who was virtually a non-factor in UE's opening-day loss to UP (55-62), bounced back with 11 points, including a crucial trey that helped quash NU's rally.

Edgar Charcos added 12 markers while RR de Leon helped contain NU behemoth Alfred Aroga to eight markers and 16 boards as he stepped up in the absence of suspended Chris Javier.

"The second half, especially the third quarter, was the real Warriors I'm looking for," said Pumaren.

Gelo Alolino topscored for NU with 23 while Pau Javelona added 16.

NU became the third straight holder to start its title retention bid with a 0-2 card. Last year, La Salle also dropped their first two while Ateneo suffered the same fate in the aftermath of their five-peat romp.

The Scores

UE 76 - Batiller 23, Charcos 12, Varilla 11, Abanto 9, De leon 8, Palma 6, Sta. Ana 4, Manalang 3, Derige 0, Gagate 0, Gonzales 0, Penuela 0, Yu 0.

NU 71 - Alolino 23, Javelona 16, Aroga 8, Salim 6, Diputado 5, Javillonar 5, Neypes 4, Abatayo 2, Celda 2, Aljeandro 0, Morido 0, Rangel 0.

Quarterscores: 20-16, 32-27, 60-46, 76-71.

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