Ateneo clinches Final Four spot, dominates NU
Ateneo punched its ticket to the Final Four after brushing National University aside, 79-64, in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament Saturday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The league-leading Blue Eagles cruised to their fourth straight win for a 9-2 record and in the process sent the Bulldogs to a miserable 3-7 slate in the seventh spot.
NU’s chances of entering the semifinals now hang by a thread.
Ateneo started the game with a 10-0 spurt and the defending champion never looked back.
The Blue Eagles went on a blistering 22-9 run in the second quarter to take a 44-20 lead after Thirdy Ravena’s free throw.
Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said that even though the Final Four was within arm’s length, they never looked that far ahead and instead focused on the Bulldogs.
“We didn’t look into the Final Four and we were just focusing on NU,” said Arespacochaga. “We didn’t look beyond this game and that was the key point for us.”
Arespacochaga added that their strong start to the game was of key importance for them especially when the Bulldogs went on several runs in the second half.
The Bulldogs managed to cut Ateneo’s lead to 12 points, 55-43, after Dave Yu’s three but the defending champions were able to hold off any stronger advances from NU.
Raffy Verano made it a 20-point game, 71-51, early in the fourth with a layup and that effectively crushed any hope the Bulldogs had in the game.
“Having a strong start means a lot,” said Arespacochaga. “NU won’t roll over and die so we’ll keep on fighting so when they made the runs it was good that we already had that good cushion.”
Ravena tied his career-high of 23 points while also grabbing 12 rebounds to lead the Blue Eagles while Angelo Kouame had a 19-point, 17-rebound double-double.
John Lloyd Clemente carried NU with 25 points, on 10-of-17 shooting, with eight rebounds while Dave Ildefonso struggled on the floor with 13 points on 5-of-16 shooting.
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