DEFENDING two-time champion Ateneo and University of the Philippines, priming up for this weekend’s much-awaited rematch of last year’s Finals, posted contrasting wins on a day National University finally earned its long overdue breakthrough win yesterday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles relied on a huge second half surge to complete an 85-68 rout of UE for their sixth straight victory, while Juan Gomez de Liaño produced a huge interception and a three-pointer in the last 7.8 seconds as the Fighting Maroons reasserted their mastery of La Salle, 72-71.
This season’s heartbreak kids, the Bulldogs chalked up their first win in emphatic fashion, a 61-39 win over Far Eastern University.
UP rose to 5-1 heading into their showdown with Ateneo, which is gunning for a first round sweep on Sunday before an expected SRO crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
After trailing in the first quarter for the first time this season and scoring only 34 points in the first half, the Eagles exploded for 35 points in the third period that jolted the Red Warriors.
“I think it’s probably appropriate to talk more about UE than us. They came out with a good game plan. They obviously took notes watching us play. They used some counters to some of our defensive tactics which were effective particularly in the first half,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
This year’s first Battle of Katipunan since the Season 81 championship series that the Eagles won over the Maroons via a two-game sweep will be something Baldwin to look forward to.
“It’ll be really interesting to see that game. All of us are still trying to prove who we are at this point. I think they’ll be a probably big crowd for that game. It’ll maybe a playoff-type atmosphere. But for us, we will approach it as just the next game. We’ll go out and play good basketball,” said Baldwin.
“I don’t have any different expectations of my team except to come out and play good basketball,” he added.
The Green Archers tried to steal the win in their final play, but Aljun Melecio, wanting to atone for his error that paved the way for Juan Gomez de Liaño’s game winner, bungled a long triple in the dwindling seconds, as the Maroons extended their domination of the Taft-based cagers which dates back from last season.
Kobe Paras had 21 points while reigning MVP Bright Akhuetie added 17 points and 14 rebounds for UP, which has won four straight matches, including three that were decided by slimmest of margins.
Despite those four close defeats and a morale-deflating 21-point setback to Ateneo, NU simply did not gave up.
In women’s action, Congo’s Grace Irebu unloaded 24 points and 16 rebounds as UST recovered from a slow start, to repulse UE, 58-49, to force a three-way tie in second place with idle Adamson, which defeated Ateneo, 68-58, and FEU, a 73-67 winner over UP, at 4-2. The scores:
NU (61) — D. Ildefonso 20, Oczon 9, S. Ildefonso 8, Gaye 7, Clemente 6, Gallego 3, Joson 3, Yu 3, Mosqueda 2, Diputado 0, Galinato 0, Malonzo 0, Mangayao 0, Minerva 0, Rangel 0, Tibayan 0.
FEU (39) — Eboña 17, Stockton 7, Nunag 5, Gonzales 4, Bienes 2, Comboy 2, Tempra 2, Alforque 0, Bayquin 0, Cani 0, Celzo 0, Mantua 0, Tchuente 0, Torres 0, Tuffin 0.
Quarterscores: 14-6, 37-13, 47-24, 61-39
Ateneo (85) — Kouame 16, Ravena 15, Wong 11, Navarro 9, Belangel 6, Go 6, Mamuyac 6, Tio 5, Maagdenberg 4, Chiu 3, Ma. Nieto 2, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Credo 0, Daves 0, Mallillin 0.
UE (68) — Suerte 15, Conner 9, Tolentino 9, Diakhite 8, Abanto 6, Cruz 6, Camacho 5, Mendoza 5, Pagsanjan 5, Antiporda 0, Beltran 0.
Quarterscores: 11-15, 34-35, 69-50, 85-68
UP (72) - Paras 21, Akhuetie 17, Gomez de Liaño Ju. 10, Rivero 9, Manzo 5, Tungcab 5, Webb 3, Jaboneta 2, Gob 0, Gomez de Liaño Ja. 0, Murrell 0, Prado 0, Spencer 0.
DLSU (71) - Caracut 16, Melecio 16, Baltazar 13, Bartlett 8, Malonzo 7, Manuel 5, Serrano 4, Lojera 2, Bates 0, Cu 0.
Quarterscores: 14-18, 29-36, 52-59, 72-71