CJ Perez banged in 24 points as the Lyceum of the Philippines University Pirates crushed the Letran Knights, 81-69, Friday to move tantalizingly close to sweeping their way to the finals in the 93rd NCAA basketball tournament at the Filoil Arena in San Juan City.
Jesper Ayaay hit 12 while Mike Nzeusseu and JV Marcelino scored 11 each in helping to power the Pirates to win No. 16.
The Pirates are now two wins shy from securing an automatic spot in the finals and the thrice-to-beat edge that goes with it.
The Pirates took control right from the first period.
They capitalized on four turnovers by the Knights in the last four minutes to move out of range in the first 10 minutes of play.
First Perez knocked in a layup in the last 4:08, and as Jerrick Balanze missed two charities for the Knights, JC Marcelino came running down with another layup, 16-11, 24 seconds later.
JV Marcelino then scored on a quick layup before Nzeusseu caught a rebound off Jeo Ambohot bungled charity attempts.
Nzeusseu then went on the offensive, and his basket with 2:11 to gave Lyceum a 20-11 edge.
Later at the end of the period, Ayaay’s trey allowed Lyceum to claim a 10-point spread, 26-15.
Pirates coach Topex Robinson said his players played inspired basketball, knowing that a date history beckons them.
“It's the inspiration that’s really been there," said Robinson.
The Pirates can an outright finals berth with wins over Jose Rizal on Oct. 13 and San Beda, the defending champion, on Oct. 19.
The Knights slid to an even 8-8.
JRU Bombers puts away Stags
Earlier, The Jose Rizal University Heavy Bombers turned to the free throw line to put away the San Sebastian Stags, 60-58, and stay within reach of the Final Four seat.
The Heavy Bombers hiked their record to 10-6 record and they are now assured of at least a playoff for a spot in the semifinals.
The Kalentong-based dribblers could clinch a Final Four seat outright with a win either against Mapua on Tuesday or Lyceum of the Philippines University on Friday.
Abdel Potouochi knocked in a pair of freebies with 29.5 seconds left to put JRU up, 59-58.
Ryan Costelo could have won it for the Heavy Bombers but his basket rimmed out, and in the return play, Jed Mendoza sent in a charity shot to push JRU up by two points.
The Stags could have sent the game to overtime, but Michael Calisaan bungled his attempt in the next
The loss put the Stags to 7-8 at fifth place, and they are a game behind the fourth running Letran Knights at 8-7.
LPU 81 – Perez 24, Ayaay 12, Nzeusseu 11, Marcelino JV 11, Santos 6, Marcelino JC 5, Caduyac 4, Baltazar 3, Liwag 3, Serrano 2, Ibanez 0, Tansingco 0, Cinco 0, Pretta 0, Marata 0
Letran 69 – Calvo 15, Quinto 13, Nambatac 12, Balagasay 9, Ambohot 8, Taladua 5, Balanza 4, Gedaria 2, Mandreza 1, Vacaro 0, Bernabe 0, Caralipio 0
Quarterscores: 29-20, 45-36, 64-54, 81-69