UAAP: Returning Dave Ildefonso stars as Ateneo beats UP
Ateneo used a strong start and leaned on the scoring touch of a homecoming hero to thwart University of the Philippines, 90-81, Saturday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at Mall of Asia Arena.
Dave Ildefonso, the former Ateneo high school star who flew back to the Eagles nest after a stint with a rival school, assembled scoring bunches when needed as the defending champions got off to a rousing start in the return of varsity hoop action after a two-year pause because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Just being under coach Tab [Baldwin] during that duration of time with Gilas just helped me understand his system a lot more,” said Ildefonso, who finished with 19 points on 7-of-14 shooting and added five rebounds to lead the Eagles.
“Obviously we’re delighted to get a win in that thing,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “We went into [the game] not knowing how we would perform how UP would perform.”
UP, which trailed by 20 at one point in the fourth, rallied hard in the end, but Ateneo got clutch hits from Tyler Tio and SJ Belangel to cool off that rally.
“We had a big lead in fourth but we started to give that away by doing unintelligent plays .. and committing silly fouls,” Baldwin said. “Offensively we became stagnant and shot the ball early in possessions when we didn’t have good shots.”
“We need to respond better. We allowed them to shave off more from that lead than we should. Tyler hit a big three, SJ hit a big there and that alleviated the pressure but we should play smarter so we don’t have to face that pressure.”
Ateneo got off to a hot start, using an 11-0 run to claim a 13-3 lead at the 3:03 mark of the first quarter. Ange Kouame drained a triple and a short jumper in that run as UP lived solely off Ricci Rivero’s three-pointer—worth P750 in his season charity drive for his school’s jeepney drivers.
Ildefonso also knocked down a triple and added two free throws while as the defending champs stretched the lead to 20-5.
The Maroons struck back in the dying minutes of the first, squeezing 13 points in that span to trim the deficit to 26-18.
Gilas Pilipinas big man Carl Tamayo scored off an offensive rebound and then added a short wing jumper over Kouame to help UP inch closer, 32-25, in the second period. But Raffy Verano sank a triple and a layup to open up another 12-point lead, 37-25, 4:08 remaining in the first half.
Ildefonso added another triple and then a fadeaway as Ateneo took a 42-29 edge, 2:24 before the break.
The Maroons made a strong start after halftime, working their way to within five but Ildefonso buried another triple and pulled up for a short jumper as it seemed like he could make any shot he took. When he did miss, Raffy Verano cleaned up the board and hit a follow-up to give Ateneo a 59-43 lead with 5:24 left in the third.
Ildefonso and Kouame then conspired to widen the gap to 65-46.
Gian Chiu gave Ateneo a 75-55 edge but the Maroons had one more fight in them, with CJ Cansino, Ricci Rivero and Malick Diouf helping UP trim the deficit to 85-78.
“It’s almost like you have to outlast your opponent,” Baldwin said. “The mental side of our game has to improve. But it’s better to learn those lessons with a win than with a loss. It’s better to learn from that adversity without giving up a loss.”