Facing a team that underwent a massive buildup in the off-season, defending champion Ateneo—a season removed from dominating University of the Philippines in the title series—showed the Fighting Maroons that the Eagles are still the boss in Season 82 of the UAAP men’s basketball tournament after an 89-63 demolition job Sunday before an animated gallery at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
A 17-4 run early in the second half had the Eagles breaking the game wide open—and this seemed to wreck the Maroons both physically and emotionally with UP coach Bo Perasol thrown out for arguing a noncall at the height of the Ateneo charge.
Perasol got ejected for berating game officials, contesting that Angelo Kouame’s block on Jerson Prado should’ve been called a foul.
The Blue Eagles ended the first round with a perfect 7-0 record while the Maroons saw a stop to their four-game winning streak to drop to 5-2.
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin admired how his team maintained its composure, especially in the second half, despite the hype and emotion surrounding the rematch of last season’s finals.
“When the tide turned around, our guys methodically stuck to the task and we didn’t get carried away with the crowd, after all this is a regular season game,” said Baldwin. “I give a lot of credit to the boys for their composure and it wasn’t an easy game to play in.”
Ateneo outscored UP, 55-32, in the second half, but Baldwin added that the referees’ decisions made the match “an unusual game.”
There were four technical fouls called, two for each team, and a total of 37 personal fouls that resulted to a combined 36 free throws.
“It’s not always the referees’ fault when it happens, they have to do their jobs,” said Baldwin. “Of course, a lot of us would like the game better if the referees didn’t have that much of an impact.”
UP had the bulk of the free throws, 22-14, and connected on 16 of those, while the Eagles converted on 10 of their charity shots.
Kouame had his way underneath with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and seven blocks for Ateneo, while Matt Nieto added 18 points on 7-of-13 shooting.
Will Navarro added 14 points and six boards, with Thirdy Ravena and SJ Belangel contributing 13 and 11 points, respectively, for the Eagles.
Kobe Paras, half of UP’s celebrated signing in the off-season, the other being Ricci Rivero, led the Maroons with 15 points.
Earlier, University of the East got back on the winning track after holding off National University, 78-72.
The Red Warriors snapped a two-game skid and improved to 2-5 for seventh spot going into the second round, while the Bulldogs continued bringing up the tail of the eight-team field with a 1-6 card.
National U put on a valiant effort in the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to get within one, 69-68, after Migs Oczon’s three-pointer.
UE, though, was quick to counter with two unanswered layups to build a 73-68 buffer.
Issa Gaye then put NU to within three, 75-72, with 1:22 left but Dave Ildefonso was called for an unsportsmanlike foul with 46.1 seconds to play, allowing Nick Abanto to give the Warriors a two-possession lead, 76-72.
“Of course, for me 2-5 is nightmarish, but in life you just have to take every thing with a grain of salt,” said active consultant Lawrence Chongson in Filipino. “This is our destiny, the hand that fate dealt us with, and I think this will give the players motivation not only in basketball but in life.”
Alex Diakhite, who missed a chunk of the first round due to dengue scares, led the Red Warriors with 22 points, 13 rebounds, and three blocks while Philip Manalang added 13 points and seven assists.
Patrick Yu had 17 points for the Bulldogs while Shaun Ildefonso added 11 points and six boards.
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