In the first meeting between the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles and the De La Salle University Green Archers since the UAAP Season 80 Men’s Basketball Finals, it was a rookie who took over.
With Ivorian student-athlete Angelo Kouame manning the fort, the defending champions limited the second-best offense in the league to its season worst performance in a 71-55 victory, Saturday evening at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
“Coming into the game, we knew that La Salle was coming off a good win against UST. Kib Montalbo also played,” shared Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga. “We needed to make sure that we did what we wanted to do in terms of playing offense and defense.”
Kouame, who stands at 6-foot-10, finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and five blocks.
“He’s doing well. It’s good to see his growth as an individual. But we are also evolving as a team. One of our strengths is Ange’s strength inside. We’re happy to see him evolve as well,” Arespacochaga remarked about their big man.
Having Kouame paid dividends in the second frame as the Blue Eagles limited the Green Archers to just eight points during the second frame. Besides holding down La Salle to just 26 percent shooting in the first half, Ateneo forced their opponents to commit 16 of their 28 turnovers in the game during the first half.
Behind Aljun Melecio, La Salle sliced the lead down to nine points but a Tyler Tio spurt to close out the third canto extended the lead to double-digits once again.
“We’re very happy especially with how we played defense,” said Arespacochaga.
Ateneo cruised in the final frame, limiting La Salle to 21.6 points lower than their season average.
Besides the point total, Ateneo held down La Salle to season-lows in field goal percentage (29 percent), assists (3), blocks (3), and points of turnovers (2).
Anton Asistio chipped in 12 points for Ateneo while Thirdy Ravena tallied nine points, six assists, and four rebounds.
This is Ateneo’s fifth straight win to go up to 5-1. La Salle fell to an even 3-3 — just half-a-game behind the UP Fighting Maroons.
Aljun Melecio was the sole double-digit scorer for La Salle with 21 points.
Justine Baltazar, who averaged 15.2 points and 10.2 rebounds prior to the game, was held down to just four points and 10 rebounds while Santi Santillan, who had norms of 11.6 points and 8.8 rbeounds, only had seven markers and seven boards.
Ateneo looks to end their round strong when it faces the FEU Tamaraws on Wednesday, October 10 at the SM Mall of Asia Arena. La Salle, on the other hand, takes on the Adamson Soaring Falcons on Saturday, October 13 at the same venue.
ADMU 71 – Kouame 20, Asistio 12, Ravena 9, Verano 8, Navarro 6, Go 6, Tio 5, Nieto Mi 3, Nieto Ma 2, Wong 0, Mamuyac 0, Belangel 0, Mendoza 0
DLSU 55 – Melecio 21, Santillan 7, Dyke 6, Baltazar 4, Montalbo 4, Caracut 4, Bates 3, Serrano 3, Manuel 3, Go 0
Quarterscores: 12-13, 28-21, 50-33, 71-55
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