The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles make it two in a row at the expense of the skidding National University Bulldogs.
Behind a surprising performance by Filipino-American rookie Raffy Verano, the cagers from Loyola Heights played their best all-around game of the season, taking a 65-50 win over the Bulldogs for solo third in the standings, Sunday evening at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. On the other hand, NU drop to fifth — 1.5 games behind fourth-placed Adamson University.
“Coming into this game we knew that we’re up against an NU team that might be a little more desperate and we know that NU’s system, especially defensively, is really very tough, so we wanted to make sure that we executed offensively,” Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arepacochaga said.
The Blue Eagles shot 39 percent in the game and were able to knock down seven triples as a team, which negated the huge free throw discrepancy. Ateneo attempted six free throws in the game compared to 28 for NU.
Verano had his breakout performance of the season, scoring 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting and knocking down three triples. Big man Isaac Go added nine points.
Right off the gate, the Blue Eagles locked down on the defensive end, as they were able to limit the struggling Bulldogs to just eight first quarter points. But the Blue Eagles could not break away during that frame, putting up just 11 markers.
Needing a spark, Verano exploded in the second frame, scoring 11 points on a blistering 5-of-6 shooting. On the defensive end, they were able to hold National U to another eight-point period.
“Well I think we’ve seen glimpses of Raffy in some of the other games, he’s a sparkplug for us off the bench,” Arespacochaga remarked about their rookie forward. “He plays well defensively but not only that he proved today that he can also score.”
Verano;s 20th point of the game, a triple, came in the third frame that gave Ateneo their biggest lead of the game, 61-40.
Jay Alejandro, who led NU with 13 points, tried to rally his team in the third canto but his the Bulldogs struggled to simply put up shots against the stifling Ateneo defense.
“Not only that we wanted to if not match, at least surpass NU’s defense. We wanted to come up with a defensive mindset of our own. I think we were able to do that. We held them to 50 points and 30 percent shooting so we’re happy with that,” Arespacochaga said.
With the win, the Blue Eagles sit in third place with just three games remaining. But the young Eagles continue to seek for improvements as they inch in to the next round.
“Well we still want to take it one game at a time. We want to stay focused. We want to improve each day in practice and each game,” the long-time Ateneo assistant coach said. “As cliche as it may sound, that’s what we’re doing as a team. We don’t wnat to look too far ahead.”
The Ateneo Blue Eagles (6-4) will play a pivotal game on Saturday, October 29 against the Adamson University Soaring Falcons (5-5). The NU Bulldogs (4-7) look to bounce back on Wednesday, October 26 against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons (3-7). Both games will be played at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
ADMU (65) – Verano 20, Go 9, Black 7, Asistio 6, Babilonia 6, Tolentino 6, Ravena 4, Mi. Nieto 3, Mendoza 2, Wong 2, Escaler 0, Ikeh 0, Ildefonso 0, Ma. Nieto 0, Porter 0, White 0.
NU (50) – Alejandro 13, Aroga 8, Salem 7, M. Diputado 6, Morido 5, R. Diputado 3, Gallego 3, Rangel 3, Pate 2, Abatayo 0, Mosqueda 0, Salim 0, Yu 0.
Quarterscores: 11-8, 34-16, 52-34, 65-50.