Spencer, Rivero clutch as UP staves off Ateneo

James Spencer and Ricci Rivero showed poise down the stretch as University of the Philippines staved off reigning champion Ateneo, 84-83, in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City Sunday night, May 1.

James Spencer of University of the Philippines (UAAP Media Bureau)

The win by the Fighting Maroons, who finished with a 12-2 record, erased the outright Finals berth advantage for the Blue Eagles as the traditional Final Four format will be followed.

UP also halted Ateneo's 39-match win streak dating back October 10, 2018, exactly 1,299 days after, as the defending champion ended the elimination round with a 13-1 slate in front of a strong 10,512 spectators clad in pink, blue, and maroon.

Malick Diouf led the Maroons' balanced attack with 18 points on a 6-of-7 shooting to go with 16 rebounds and four assists while Carl Tamayo posted 16 points and four rebounds.

Spencer chalked up 12 points, six rebounds, and three assists, CJ Cansino, who was stretchered out of the court in the third quarter, had 11 points, and Rivero finished with eight points and four rebounds to make up for his five turnovers.

JD Cagulangan also had an all-around performance with seven points, four rebounds, and four assists for the Maroons, who were leading for the most part before Tyler Tio and Chris Koon connived from beyond the arc late in the third period to tie the game at 66-all.

"Winning against Ateneo siyempre is a big achievement for us," said UP coach Goldwin Monteverde. "One thing good for me kanina, yung team namin stayed as a team no matter how close the game was."

The fourth quarter saw at least three deadlocks before Spencer hit a clutch triple off a JD Cagulangan dish with 43.6 seconds left en route to an 82-81 lead.

Dave Ildefonso, however, responded with a difficult reverse layup after a Gian Mamuyac miss with 32.4 ticks to go to retake an 83-82 advantage.

Rivero, who struggled on a 2-of-9 shooting from the field, came alive when it mattered the most after sinking a pair of free throws with 22.2 seconds remaining to ice the match.

At Ateneo's last possession, SJ Belangel missed a potential game-winning three-pointer as Diouf secured a defensive rebound before firing blanks at the free throw line.

The UP big man made sure not to give Ateneo any chances of leading and grabbed an offensive rebound as time expired.

Ange Kouame's double-double effort went into naught, pacing the Eagles with 21 points, 17 rebounds, four assists and three steals.

Ildefonso contributed 18 points and seven rebounds while Belangel and BJ Andrade scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, for Ateneo.

UP takes on No. 3 team De La Salle (9-5) on Wednesday, May 4 at 2 p.m. while Ateneo faces No. 4 squad Far Eastern University (7-7) at 6 p.m.

The Scores:

UP 84 - Diouf 18, Tamayo 16, Spencer 12, Cansino 11, Lucero 9, Rivero 8, Cagulangan 7, Fortea 3, Alarcon 0, Webb 0, Lina 0.

Ateneo 83 - Kouame 21, Ildefonso 18, Belangel 11, Andrade 10, Verano 7, Tio 6, Koon 5, Lazaro 2, Mendoza 2, Chiu 1, Mamuyac 0.

Quarters: 27-13, 50-44, 70-67, 84-83.