The UP Fighting Maroons opened UAAP Season 81 with a blowout win over the UE Red Warriors

By Klyde Manansala | Photos by Javier Lobregat

Indeed, the theme It All Begins Here is perfectly appropriate for the UP Fighting Maroons this season.

From the Gomez De Llano brothers and Paul Desiderio to Bright Akhuetie who’s  playing his first UAAP stint with UP, head coach Bo Perasol’s squad played like a team on a mission as they dispatched the UE Red Warriors with a 29-point victory, 87-58, in the season opener Saturday at MOA Arena.

But just like what Akhuetie said, “We can’t get too excited right now, it’s just the first game… let’s see how far we will go.” The transferee out of NCAA’s Perpetual Help Altas is aware of the heavy task ahead of them after their win: a clash with the defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles.

Frederick Tungcab extended his arms for the lay-up

Despite how the coaches, players, analysts, and fans painted Ateneo as the league monsters prior to the start of the season, coach Perasol was calm about his observations when asked on his thoughts about their upcoming game against the favorites.

“I think we know what we can do and we all know what Ateneo is all about. We will prepare for them the next couple of days,” Perasol said.

In fact, the chief tactician even thinks UP has all the right pieces to play against the powerhouse lineup of coach Tab Baldwin.

“The good thing about this is at least in every position right now we can match up with them. But they are the champions, we need to have our A-game against them. We just need to do what we have to do,” he added.

David Murrell expresses his emotions after a converted alley-oop play with his teammate

With the way the Fighting Maroons executed their win today, coach Perasol has all the reasons to be confident about pitting UP’s talent alongside Ateneo.

Both Akhuetie and Desiderio finished with double-double figures. The best frontline of UP came out big, dropping 15 points and 18 rebounds while Desiderio finished with 12 and 10.

Although Desiderio struggled with nailing his shots from the outside, coach Perasol found a timely shooter in Juan Gomez De Llano who made three of five three-point attempts, two of which were drained in the third quarter when the Red Warriors were slowly knocking on their doors.

“The good thing about this is at least in every position right now we can match up with them. But they are the champions, we need to have our A-game against them. We just need to do what we have to do,” Perasol added

Juan finished with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds, while his brother Javier chipped in 10 points.

Desiderio shot a measly 28 percent from the field and converted just one three-point shot out of eight attempts, but the graduating guard started to pick himself up in the second half after being reprimanded by his coach during halftime.

“I showed him the stats, his misses were the reasons why UE came back in transition, he knows how to play the game. If you’re missing from the outside, you’re not just a shooter, he’s a gunner, he can score when he wants to, he can actually post,” Perasol said of Desiderio.

“This is just the start I’m just happy that we’re able to get this win. I hope that we could capitalize on the momentum we had,” he added.

UP will face Ateneo on Wednesday.