Far Eastern U coach Olsen Racela once said that Ateneo could go undefeated in the elimination round this season. And even when the Eagles lost their first game, the Tamaraws still looked out of their league when they warmed up for their match against the defending champions.
But mayhem reigned Wednesday afternoon in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament and after taking time to rev up its game, FEU held off Ateneo, 63-60, to stretch its winning streak to three games.
“I want to give credit to my players because although we didn’t have a good start against Ateneo, we still came back into the game,” said Racela.
The Eagles held the Tamaraws to a single field goal in the first seven minutes of the match to take an early double-digit spread, but Hubert Cani rescued his teammates from that cold start to allow FEU to tie Ateneo at 5-2, behind league-leading Adamson’s 5-1 record.
The Tamaraws were also the ones who dealt the Falcons their first loss and that, plus an upset hammered out earlier in the day by University of Santo Tomas, set the stage for FEU’s stunning victory.
The Tigers, who hired Aldin Ayo and his mayhem brand of basketball in the offseason, endured a chaotic start to the tournament before stringing up a second straight win with an 86-72 demolition of the University of the Philippines.
UST ended the first round at 3-4 in a tie with UP.
“We’re finally getting to implement coach Aldin’s system,” said rookie CJ Cansino, who admitted that it took a while to get things together. “During our practice sessions, everything would be really smooth but once we’re in the game everything seems to fall apart.”
Cansino filled up the stat sheet for the Growling Tigers with 16 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists, and two steals while getting substantial help from Ken Zamora, who had 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting from deep.
UST started the game with an 8-0 spurt and never looked back, leading by 30 at one point, 76-46.
“The coaches never got tired of helping us; one small mistake and they will immediately guide us on how to do it right,” said Zamora in Filipino. “Coach Aldin just told us that we should just lean on the system once we play.”
Cani, who broke the Tamaraws’ early dry spell with a scoring cluster off the bench, gave FEU a 61-56 lead with a huge in-your-face three from the left wing with 1:16 left in the game.
The Tamaraws were without top gun Arvin Tolentino, who was serving a suspension for a disqualifying foul during the Adamson game.
Cani led FEU with 12 points, five rebounds and six assists.
Angelo Kouame led Ateneo with 16 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.
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