Ateneo, UP hold off foes
Ateneo wasn’t as calm as its coach needed it to be. University of the Philippines was distracted—blame the short shorts. It didn’t matter.
The two squads plotted their course toward another title showdown by opening their UAAP Season 82 men’s basketball tournament campaigns with victories on Wednesday at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The defending champions Blue Eagles scored the game’s last 13 points on the way to a 70-52 victory over the scrappy Falcons, but coach Tab Baldwin admitted his team could have done better—especially on the offensive end—had his players been a little bit more composed.
“I think, if we calmed our minds a little bit we would’ve been better on the offensive end,” Baldwin said. “I expected more composure from my players.”
Maroons coach Bo Perasol also felt his players got too carried away emotionally on offense in their 61-55 victory over Far Eastern U in the earlier game, especially after Jun Manzo and Ricci Rivero connected on an alley-oop that brought the UP half of the coliseum to its feet.
“I really think that we’ve been very emotional in terms of our offense,” Persol said. “I’ve been telling them, a dunk is just two points, an alley-oop is just two points [and] sometimes we get too carried away, we forget to think that if we really want to go all the way, we really have to be proud with our defense.”
“I’d like [Rivero] to do [highlight dunks] because he can, no question about that … but after making those shots, [the players] have to be level-headed and know that the game is not done yet.”
It certainly wasn’t done for FEU, which mounted a rally to trim an 11-point halftime deficit to just 45-44 late in the third period. Later in the game, Wendell Comboy split his freebies to push the Tamaraws to a deadlock at 55.
But Bright Akhuetie drilled a hook shot for UP’s 57-55 lead with 1:35 left before Manzo’s four straight free throws iced the game for the Fighting Maroons, who started the game with a major distraction: ultrashort shorts.
“That was a distraction, too. We were so out of focus when we got [our shorts]. Initially, we really didn’t like that, the way they were laughing, the way the shorts looked, it was just too short,” Perasol said.
Ateneo also wobbled after taking a 24-point lead as Adamson uncorked a blistering 26-7 run bridging the third and fourth quarters to get to within five, 57-52, after Jerrick Ahanmisi’s layup.
But the Eagles assembled their closing run to get their three-peat bid going despite facing “the last team we wanted to see in the first game.”
And while Ateneo certainly looked the part of a title contender, Perasol made no secret of wanting UP to be the team that denies them a third straight crown.
“After getting into the finals [last season], it’s just natural for us to aim for the title,” he said.
In another early match, dark horse University of Santo Tomas crushed University of the East, 95-82.
The Growling Tigers leaned on Rhenz Abando, who had 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in his UAAP debut.