DEFENDING champion Ateneo grabbed the solo lead for the first time this season while University of Santo Tomas posted its first three-game winning streak in three years yesterday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Thirdy Ravena produced a double-double effort of 21 points and 11 rebounds as the Blue Eagles opened the second round with an 83-66 rout of University of the Philippines.
Zach Huang fired a career-high 20 points as the Growling Tigers repeated over first round topnotcher Far Eastern University, 78-70.
Ateneo dominated its Katipunan rival in the second half to log its sixth victory in eight matches.
Tyler Tio, starting for the first time in the tournament, had a breakout game with 12 points and five assists while Raffy Verano and Jolo Mendoza each scored 10 points.
UST evened up its record to 4-4 in solo fifth spot, now just half-a-game behind La Salle in the race for the last Final Four berth.
Aside from sweeping their elimination round head-to-head versus the Tamaraws for the first time in three years, it was Tigers’ first three-game winning streak since 2015, winning the last two elimination round games and the Final Four.
“Lumabas yung laro ng mga bata. We’re grateful na kung ano yung pinaghandaan namin ay lumalabas,” said UST coach Aldin Ayo. “It’s still a long way to go. We’re going to keep working hard.”
After beating top teams Adamson and Ateneo in succession that put them as the No. 1 team in the first round, FEU fell with a 5-3 card.
”It’s important for us to come out strong, especially in the second round. Especially that we are coming off a loss to FEU,” said assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga, visibly satisfied with the way the Eagles rebounded from last Wednesday’s 60-63 defeat from the hands of the Tamaraws.
“But more than that, we wanted to come into this game focused on UP. It is just more than the standings for us. We just wanted to come out and play well,” he added.
The Fighting Maroons, who fell at 3-5 in sixth place, lost Javi Gomez de Liaño at the 5:42 mark payoff period for two technical fouls.
Marvin Lee’s back-to-back triples ignited the Tigers’ telling 16-3 run that turned a two-point deficit early in the payoff period into a 65-54 advantage at the 3:55 mark.
UST (78) – Huang 20, Lee 17, Subido 14, Mahinay 10, Cansino 5, Bataller 4, Caunan 2, Marcos 2, Bonleon 2, Cosejo 2, Zamora 0, Agustin 0.
FEU (70) – Escoto 12, Tolentino 11, Orizu 8, Stockton 8, Gonzales 7, Cani 6, Eboña 6, Comboy 5, Parker 3, Iñigo 2, Bayquin 2, Tuffin 0.
Quarterscores: 23-19, 37-33, 49-49, 78-70
Ateneo (83) – Ravena 21, Tio 12, Verano 10, Mendoza 10, Asistio 9, Kouame 9, Mamuyac 6, Belangel 4, Go 2, Navarro 0, Black 0, Wong 0.
UP (66) – Akhuetie 20, Desiderio 16, Manzo 8, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 5, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 2, Prado 2, Murrell 2, Vito 2, Gozum 2, Spencer 0, Lim 0
Quarterscores: 18-15, 35-29, 54-48, 83-66