NU knocking on semis door

OMAR John and the NU Bulldogs aim to advance to the Final Four of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament for the first time in seven years. Photo by Rio Deluvio

Games Thursday:

(Smart Araneta Coliseum)

11 a.m. – La Salle vs Adamson

1 p.m. — UE vs NU

4:30 p.m. — UP vs FEU

6:30 p.m. –– UST vs Ateneo

Action in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 85 men’s basketball tournament resumes with a quadruple-header playdate featuring crucial matches for teams in contention for the last three Final Four slots on Thursday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

Holding a 7-3 win-loss record at solo second spot behind semifinal-bound defending champion University of the Philippines, National University seeks to secure at least a playoff for a Final Four slot in a showdown with University of the East at 1 p.m.

Meanwhile, facing off in the 11 a.m. curtain-raiser are the undermanned Adamson University and skidding De La Salle University.

UP hopes to build momentum heading into the next round when it takes on Far Eastern University at 4:30 p.m.

Ateneo de Manila University, on the other hand, guns to boost its semis hopes against cellar-dweller University of Santo Tomas in the 6:30 p.m. nightcap.

But focus remains on the Bulldogs, who have set their eyes on picking up from where they left off before the league went on an almost two-week break to give way to the country’s campaign in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

NU beat FEU, 71-60, coming back from 19 points down last 5 November for its second straight win.

The Bulldogs just need to win two of their last four assignments left in the eliminations to finally end a seven-year Final Four drought.

“We need to continue working. We can’t relax just because we’re on a two-game winning streak. I keep reminding my team that we need to maintain our identity as a group. We must be consistent,” NU coach Jeff Napa said.

John Lloyd Clemente, Jake Figueroa, Patrick Yu and Kean Baclaan are expected to deliver the same numbers for the Bulldogs to duplicate their 77-70 win over the Red Warriors in the first round.

With a 4-6 record tied with the Tamaraws and just a half game behind fourth-running Adamson (4-5), UE remains very much in the thick of the race for a semis seat.

The Falcons, on the other hand, will be playing the Green Archers sans main gunner Jerom Lastimosa who is out indefinitely due to a dislocated right foot.

Lastimosa dropped 29 points in Adamson’s 86-84 overtime win over La Salle in the first round.

La Salle wants to get out of its current four-game funk that pulled the squad down to seventh place with a 3-6 mark. The Green Archers are also missing a key player in Most Valuable Player contender Schonny Winston, who remains doubtful after recovering from a calf injury.

The Fighting Maroons, meanwhile, are on a six-game roll before the break, pulling away from the rest of the pack with a 9-1 record.

UP is favored to make a repeat of its 73-67 first round win over the Tamaraws, who are coming off a loss that snapped their four-game win streak.

The Blue Eagles, at solo third with a 6-3 card, are also tipped to get their second straight win against the Tigers, who are just a defeat away from formally bowing out of the race.

UST is on an eight-game losing skid after winning its opening day assignment.

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