UAAP: Malick Diouf gives Ateneo fits anew
MANILA, Philippines—University of the Philippines center Malick Diouf proved to be a thorn in the side of Ateneo.
When the Senegalese big man was still with Centro Escolar University, he also dealt the Blue Eagles—who had Thirdy Ravena back then—a 77-74 defeat in Game 2 of the PBA D-League Aspirants’ Cup Finals with 23 points and 16 rebounds three years ago.
In a game where the post-season format was on the line, Diouf rose to the occasion with 18 points and 16 rebounds—including a key board off SJ Belangel’s miss that prevented Ateneo from an outright finals berth.
The victory snapped the Eagles’ 39-game winning streak dating back to October 2018 with an 84-83 stunner in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament on Sunday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“That was a good game we all enjoyed, the joy was there, we just followed the instructions of the coach,” said an ecstatic Diouf in the post-game presser. “We play out systems and we defend very well. The offense also was great, so that’s it. I’m so happy right now.”
The 6-foot-11 center also shot 6-of-7 from the field and had four assists, one block and a steal to win his second round duel against Ateneo’s naturalized big man Ange Kouame, who had 21 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and three steals.
Diouf said his focus wasn’t just containing Kouame but rather he was eager to stop all the five Blue Eagles on the floor.
“When I play, I don’t think about the matchup against Ange. I was playing against Ateneo. Ange is a good player, but I was playing for the UP community,“ said Diouf. “That’s why I defend all the five players inside the court, not only Ange.”
Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin praised the tremendous effort of Diouf despite Kouame’s big game.
“You gotta really give a lot to Diouf. A lot of credit for the game he played, he was outstanding around the basket and Ange was too,” Baldwin said. “But at the end of the day, we let Diouf have a little bit too much room and space and it hurt us. It cost us.”
UP coach Goldwin Monteverde credited their 12-2 finish in the eliminations to Diouf’s connection with Carl Tamayo and Zavier Lucero, forming a potent combo in their frontline.
“Carl and Malick really compliment each other even with Zavier. They really trust each other. They have a strong impact on the team not only in rebounds but also in scoring,” he said.
After ending Ateneo’s streak, Monteverde hopes Diouf continues to provide a huge impact on the team as UP, which has a twice-to-beat advantage, eyes to return in the UAAP Finals when it battles La Salle in the Final Four on Wednesday at 2 p.m.