UAAP: Unbeaten Ateneo, La Salle clash for first time in two years
MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo and La Salle put their unbeaten records on the line as the country’s fiercest collegiate rivals collide for the first time in the pandemic-era clash in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament on Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles and Green Archers clash at 7 p.m. inside an empty venue as it will be the last closed door match after the league has decided to open its gates for the fans starting next week.
Ateneo remained unbeaten after three games with a 16.3 winning margin so far this season and stretched its streak to 29 consecutive victories dating back to October 2018.
Three-time champion coach Tab Baldwin stressed those games are behind now as they braces for the vastly-improved La Salle under new mentor Derrick Pumaren, who also won their first three games behind the efforts of Justine Baltazar, Mark Nonoy, Evan Nelle, Deschon Winston and Mike Phillips.
“I’ve seen a little bit on TV. They’re fast. I think the Phillips brothers (Mike and Ben) give them some depth on the frontline, Balti’s playing well, Deschon Winston looks like a serious talent, and we know that with Nelle and Nonoy at the guard lineup,” said Baldwin after their 78-47 victory over Adamson on Thursday.
“There’s a lot of talent there. It’s a very good La Salle team. They like the pressure game so it should be an interesting matchup,” he added.
The new Green Archers coach hopes to us their previous win as they face a tough test against Baldwin’s program that dominated the last three UAAP seasons and eyeing for its fourth straight title with a deep roster led by Ange Kouame, SJ Belangel, Dave Ildefonso, Tyler Tio and Raffy Verano.
“We know for a fact that Ateneo is the team to beat here and barometer. We just have to concentrate more on Ateneo and we know there are bigger games ahead,” Pumaren said. “We just have to get back to the drawing board on what to do against Ateneo. We know that they are a very well-coached team and they are giving teams problems. Hopefully we will be able to solve that.”
Meanwhile, University of the Philippines (2-1) guns for its third straight win against the winless University of the East (0-3) at 1 p.m.
FEU and National University, both tied at 1-2, clash to end their respective two-game skids at 10 a.m., while University of Santo Tomas (1-2) seeks its second straight victory against Adamson (1-2) at 4 p.m.