MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles avenged their stunning season-opener loss with an 87-79 triumph over the UP Fighting Maroons in the UAAP men's basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday, September 12.
Thirdy Ravena led the balanced attack with a 17-point, 11-rebound double-double as the defending champion Blue Eagles rebounded from their shock loss to Adamson during the opening weekend.
Ateneo and UP join a four-way logjam at 1-1 with the University of Santo Tomas and Far Eastern University.
“We’ve said all along – and we’re realizing the truth of it – I’ve said it’s gonna be a fight every time out,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin in the post-game presser. “We’re gonna get everybody’s best and it’s tough today. But I’m happy with the fight that we had inside of us today. I think that was more evident than the game against Adamson.”
Ivorian tower Angelo Kouame crushed a one-hand tomahawk at the 7:19 mark, 73-62, before Bright Akhuetie tried to respond with a poster dunk, which clanked off.
Play immediately stopped as UP head coach Bo Perasol lost his cool and charged at the referee on court, resulting in a disqualifying foul and ejection.
The Maroons made an 8-2 run after Perasol's ejection to cut the lead to 5 off a Juan Gomez de Liano triple, 70-75, but the Blue Eagles recovered their bearings in the final four minutes.
Veteran guard Anton Asistio swiped the rock from fellow vet Diego Dario as the Eagles regained a 10-point lead, 83-73, off an easy layup with 3:19 left in regulation.
UP got rusty hands down the stretch as they failed to recover for good.
Asistio got hot for 16 points on a 6-of-10 (60%) shooting while Kouame chipped in 14 markers, 9 boards and 5 blocks.
“Whether that was the wake-up call from Adamson, whether it’s the realization that UAAP is a different animal than what we’ve been seeing through most of the offseason, I guess it really doesn’t matter,” said Baldwin. “What matters is I thought our intensity today was a better reflection of the team we want to be, but our execution still is lacking.”
UP's Juan Gomez de Liano fired a career-high 29 points on a 12-of-19 (63%) shooting with 6 boards and 2 dimes.
Akhuetie just missed a triple-double on his birthday with 8 markers, 11 boards and 10 dimes while Paul Desiderio added 17 points, 6 boards and 6 assists for the Maroons.
After a grinded-out first half, the Blue Eagles shifted gears entering the 3rd quarter with a 10-3 salvo, ending with a Matt Nieto three for a 10-point lead, 56-46.
The Maroons were unable to make stops as Ateneo maintained a 9-point lead, 67-58, heading to the 4th quarter of the match between two neighboring schools billed as the "Battle of Katipunan."
As a small picture of the back-and-forth first half, Ravena crushed home a putback slam for the 35-33 lead, but Juan Gomez de Liano repayed the favor a few possessions later with the ankle-breaking stepback jumper over both Ravena and Matt Nieto, 39-36.
Ateneo ended the half just up 3, 49-46, after an Asistio long bomb at the 22-second mark.
Ateneo 87 – Ravena 17, Asistio 16, Kouame 14, Ma. Nieto 12, Mi. Nieto 7, Go 5, Mendoza 5, Wong 5, Verano 4, Black 2, Belangel 0, Navarro 0.
UP 79 – Ju. Gomez de Liano 29, Desiderio 17, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 8, Ja. Gomez de Liano 5, Murrell 4, Dario 3, Prado 2, Vito 2, Gozum 0, Jaboneta 0, Lim 0, Spencer 0, Tungcab 0.
Quarters: 25-24, 46-43, 67-58, 87-79.