Ateneo rallies from behind to beat pesky UPBy Celest R. Flores
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo bucked a sluggish start and rallied to a 76-70 triumph over University of the Philippines Thursday in the 75th UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The duo of Nico Salva and Greg Slaughter restored order as they combined for 20 points in the pivotal third quarter where the defending champion first wrested the lead from the Maroons.
Salva continued his consistent showing with 21 points, five rebounds, three assists while Slaughter added 13 points, nine rebounds, two assists and three blocks.
“Every game we play, we’re always going to play the team’s best effort,” said head coach Norman Black, who vividly recalls his squad’s lost to UP in 2009.
“Just because we’re Ateneo, doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy,” added Black.
It was clearly a struggle for the Blue Eagles from the opening tip, admittedly stunned by the energy of the Maroons.
“They might have shocked us a little bit in the first half taking a big lead,” said Black, as Ateneo stared at nine-point deficit just before halftime.
Ateneo, which flipped the script towards the end of third and distanced itself for good, also allowed UP to knock down half of its 14 attempts from downtown.
“Today was a game we weren’t able to control the perimeter shooting of UP,” said Black, whose squad just made two treys and wasn’t able to capitalize on the open court as much.
The Blue Eagles, who finally took a 67-58 lead on a three-point play by Ryan Buenafe, also turned the ball of six times and was outrebounded in the offensive glass.
It was still a good fourth win for Ateneo, which is now behind league leader Far Eastern University (4-0) in the standings.
The Maroons, led by Mark Lopez, Alvin Padilla and Chris Ball, just couldn’t regain the lead again in the fourth after it lost grip of the lead.
The trio combined for half of the output of UP, which took its fourth straight setback.