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Near perfection: NU rout Ateneo in Game 1, move closer to women’s basketball sweep

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If there was still doubt over whether the National University Lady Bulldogs are on their way to another dominant season sweep, that thought evaporated quickly after the defending UAAP women’s basketball champions showcased a masterful performance in Game 1 of the Season 78 finals.

Taking 18 days off, the Lady Bulldogs only looked better in their 91-59 rout of Ateneo de Manila University Lady Eagles, Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena, to move one win away from their second straight women’s basketball title.

NU extended their unbeaten streak to 31 games, dating back to Season 77 when they won the crown after a 16-0 sweep.

Reigning two-time MVP Afril Bernardino paced NU with 17 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 5 blocks. Sam Paig chipped in 16 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Behind a full court trap to open the game, the Lady Bulldogs built a sizeable 15-4 lead right away, with Paig and Shelley Gupilan combining for 10 points early in the first quarter.

Ateneo managed to get to double-digits after the opening quarter through free throws from Katrina Guytingco and Clare Aseron, but a 13-3 run by NU to open the next period pretty much decided the game in the first half as the Lady Bulldogs led 34-13.

Paig continued to pad the lead for the unstoppable Lady Bulldogs in the third quarter, 61-26, before a 6-0 run by Ateneo via baskets by Aseron closed the gap, 65-36, near the end of the third.

A triple by Jollina Go later on pulled Ateneo to 67-40, but NU’s starters returned to restore order and put the game away.

As expected, NU were dominated in almost all statistical categories against the determined but way out-matched Ateneo. NU controlled the glass with a 64-42 rebounding edge, and had seven more assists, 19-12.

The Lady Bulldogs also scored 28 points off 29 Lady Eagles turnovers, and had 26 second chance points off 30 offensive rebounds.

Katrina Guytingco led Ateneo — who shot only 32.8 percent from the field — with 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Danica Jose notched a double-double with 13 points and 10 boards.

Game 2 is tentatively scheduled on Saturday at the San Juan Arena.

Scores:

NU (91) – Bernardino 17, Paig 16, Gupilan 14, Miranda 9, Tongco 6, Itesi 6, Antiquiera 5, Nabalan 4, Harada 4, Sison 3, Riel 3, Animam 2, Del Carmen 2, Abriam 0, Reyes 0, Layug 0.

Ateneo (59) – Guytingco 14, Jose 13, Aseron 9, Go 7, Yam 6, Deacon 4, Tomita 3, Buendia 2, Javier 1, Nitorreda 0.

Quarterscores: 21-10, 43-20, 65-36, 91-59.

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