Challenged to take outside shots for the majority of the game, the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles found their form late, bewildering the struggling National University Bulldogs, 85-72, Wednesday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“NU played hard, they came up with a game plan, they switched defenses on us, they zoned us a lot. We kind of expected it, but especially in the first half, we didn’t match their energy,” said lead assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
“We hit 11 threes, so it was just a matter of telling our players, just read the defense especially against the zone, find the open shots, move the ball to the open shooter,” pointed out the Ateneo lifer, “We hit 34 percent from three-point range, so I think we did a good job of not getting rattled by their defense.”
With J-jay Alejandro, who scored 16 points in the first half, already locked down by Gian Mamuyac, it was the offense that stepped up.
In the blink of an eye, the Blue Eagles turned a two-point third quarter lead to a 79-68 edge with 5:23 left. During the rally, different Blue Eagles scored, including Mamuyac, Thirdy Ravena, Tyler Tio, and Raffy Verano. On the other end, the Bulldogs could only get their first field goal with 5:47 remaining after a Matt Salem conversion.
“More importantly, at halftime, Coach Tab [Baldwin] emphasized our defense. We weren’t happy wiht our defense. We were outrebounded. That was a big point of emphasis in the half and we came out and played better defense in the second half especially in the fourth quarter,” added Arespacochaga.
Ravena led the Blue Eagles with 15 points, eight rebounds, two steals, and two blocks. Matt Nieto and Jolo Mendoza chipped in 10 markers each.
With their ninth straight win, Ateneo have picked up the first playoff ticket for the tournament. NU, on the other hand, dropped their fifth game in six.
For the first time in his UAAP Men’s Basketball stint, NU head coach Jamike Jarin was ejected after being slapped with his second technical foul with 4:13 left.
Once again, Alejandro was the lead man for the Bulldogs with 22 points, seven rebounds, five assists, and three steals. The rest of the Bulldogs were kept in check, including Issa Gaye, as he shot just 3-for-15 from the field.
Ateneo look to make it 10 in a row on Saturday, October 21, when they face the Far Eastern University Tamaraws at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum. NU, on the other hand, hope to bounce back on Sunday, October 22, when they take on the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers at the Filoil Flying V Centre.
ADMU 85 – Ravena 15, Nieto Ma 10, Mendoza 10, Ikeh 8, Asistio 8, Mamuyac 8, Go 6, Nieto Mi 5, Tio 5, Verano 4, Tolentino 3, Black 3, White 0
NU 72 – Alejandro 22, Joson 11, Gaye 8, Salem 7, Mosqueda 5, Bartlett 4, Rangel 4, Morido 4, Yu 3, Diputado 2, Cauilan 2, Tibayan 0
Quarterscores: 28-22, 45-48, 67-65, 85-72