The unstoppable force versus the immovable object. The league’s best offensive and defensive squads faced off at the Smart Araneta Coliseum, and the defence won. The unrelenting National University Bulldogs throttled the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles’ high-flying offense, 76-66, and notched their 7th victory of UAAP Season 77. Alfred Aroga was a historically dominating presence inside for the Bulldogs, rejecting 8 shots during the contest. His block party represents the highest tally since the era of fabled defensive monster Arwind Santos of FEU. The muscular centre also punished Ateneo’s frontcourt rotation with 15 points on 70% shooting, along with 11 boards. King Eagle Kiefer Ravena, the league leader in FTs attempted, was starved of service from the charity stripe, and struggled towards a team-high 18 points, albeit on 21 shots. The Bulldogs’ season sweep of the Eagles leaves the two squads deadlocked at 7-3 and jostling for Final 4 seeding. ADMU Head Coach Bo Perasol remains winless against Eric Altamirano’s Bulldogs.
The Blue Eagles again suffered from a lethargic opening quarter, a mistake the hungry Bulldogs would not let go unpunished. NU, the statistical leader in virtually every defensive category, supplemented its defensive edge with a surprising amount of firepower in the first quarter. The Bulldogs seared Ateneo’s mediocre defence for 24 points on an eye-popping 11/15 mark. Crafty starting point guard Gelo Alolino was unstoppable in the period, notching 9 points on a perfect 4/4 shooting. Fellow starters Nico Javelona, Glenn Khobuntin, and Troy Rosario were similarly unblemished from the field in the first period. Meanwhile, the sputtering Ateneo offense could only manage 14 points, well short of the 20 they average. That output was symbolic of things to come, as the Eagles, handcuffed by the athletic Bulldogs defence, would fail to breach the 20-point mark in any quarter during the match. Ateneo’s potential comeback was further complicated by the iron wall erected by Alfred Aroga and Joel Betayene in the second quarter. The titanic twosome denied 8 shots in the second quarter alone, forcing the Blue Eagles into a variety of ill-advised midrange jumper. After three periods of quality basketball, the Bulldogs found themselves up 13 points, 47-60. ADMU starting centre Ponso Gotladera then livened up proceedings with 8 straight points to open the decisive quarter. Against the enveloping attention of Aroga, the wily Ateneo big man flashed his footwork and touch to put the Eagles within 5. With the predominantly Atenean crowd rocking the Big Dome, momentum appeared to be shifting to the Eagles. NU’s Troy Rosario promptly muted the stadium again, engineering a 9-0 run to effectively put the game beyond Ateneo’s reach. Eagles’ sniper Von Pessumal hit two meaningless triples to keep the final score-line respectable at 76-66.
The Bulldogs boasted a well-distributed attack in their triumph over Ateneo. Every NU starter except Joel Betayene registered double-digit points, generally on above average efficiency. Troy Rosario in particular scintillated with a double-double of 14 points and 10 boards, on 6/8 shooting. Nico Javelona scored 12 points on 6 shots, while dishing out 5 assists. Glenn Khobuntin added 11 points on a 50% clip as well. Gelo Alolino alone struggled from the field, but still had a strong all-around outing with 13 points, 4 rebounds and 5 dimes. The Blue Eagles, on the other hand, suffered from a team-wide shooting malaise, as starters Chris Newsome, Von Pessumal and Nico Elorde all failed to crack 40% shooting in the game. Prize rookie Alvin Tolentino continued his slump, and remained pegged to the bench for most of the match, failing to score in 6 ineffectual minutes of action.