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Matt Salem scored a career-high 26 points while rookie guard JV Gallego added 12 as the Bulldogs overcame the University of the Philippines Maroons, 80-69, yesterday in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Salem continued his impressive first year with the team since transferring from La Salle by going 9-of-13 from the field while grabbing seven rebounds, helping NU register its second straight win and tie Ateneo at presstime for second place at 4-2.
A three-way tie could occur provided defending champion Far Eastern University beats University of Santo Tomas in their game being played at presstime.
Gallego, a neophyte from Chiang Kai Shek, sizzled for eight points in the payoff period, completing NU’s pullaway after its lead was reduced to 59-57 with 4:29 remaining.
NU once again struggled to secure another win, a constant issue in previous games.
“It was another grind for us and we expected that,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “UP is a tough team to play, we reminded the team after the first half that this team is capable of coming back.
“Unfortunately we didn’t play good defense in the second half. We gave up too many points, mostly from turnovers. Good thing other players stepped up.”
Jett Manuel topscored with 21 points and Paul Desiderio added 11 points, seven rebounds and five assists but UP ended the first round with a 1-6 record.
UP somewhat gave NU a gift with 4:16 left to play when center Andrew Harris fouled Mohammad Salim.
Harris was then whistled with a technical foul for a second resentment to a call, allowing Salem, who replaced the injured Salim, to sink three charities.
Gallego then scored a three-point play to make it 65-57, under four minutes remaining, making it difficult for UP to inch closer.
NU 80 – Salem 26, Diputado R. 12, Gallego 12, Alejandro 7, Aroga 7, Mosqueda 5, Pate 5, Salim 4, Morido 2, Aquino 0, Diputado C. 0, Abatayo 0, Rangel 0, Sinclair 0.
UP 69 – Manuel 21, Desiderio 11, Moralde 8, Espanola 5, Prado 4, Webb 4, Lao 4, Vito 3, Longa 3, Harris 2, Asilum 2, Jaboneta 2, Lim 0, Dario 0, Romero 0, Gomez de Liano 0.
Quarters: 12-15; 35-24; 52-46; 80-69.