IN a highly-emotional rematch of last season’s finals, defending two-time champion Ateneo’s big second half assault proved to be the difference against a game but outclassed University of the Philippines side yesterday.
The Blue Eagles ripped the Fighting Maroons 89-63 for their seventh straight win in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament before a wild and roaring crowd at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Six-foot-10 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast wound up with 19 points, 13 rebounds, two assists, and seven blocked shots for Ateneo while Matt Nieto tossed in 18 markers, five boards, and three dimes.
Wiliam Navarro, Thirdy Ravena, and SJ Belangel also chipped in 14, 13, and 11 points, respectively, as the Eagles stayed perfect after the first round of eliminations and handed UP its second loss for a 5-2 record.
The runaway win, played before 19,861 fans, served as a big follow-up to Ateneo’s 85-68 thumping of University of the East last Sept. 25.
In the other game, University of the East averted what could have been a huge meltdown, scoring a 78-72 victory over hard-fighting National University.
The win seemed to be in the bag for the Red Warriors after they led 62-49 on Rey Suerte’s two free throws at the 8:23 mark of the fourth quarter.
Down but not out, the Bulldogs charged back and threatened at 72-75 on an Issa Gaye basket with 1:22 remaining in the fourth. But a costly Unsportsmanlike Foul on NU gunner Dave Ildefonso gave Nick Abanto a free throw that made it 76-72 in the last 46.1 seconds.
Suerte canned two freebies that pegged the final count, only 23.7 ticks left.
Senegalese slotman Alex Diakhite notched a double-double of 22 points and 13 rebounds for UE while Philip Manalang added 13 markers, four caroms, and seven feeds.
Neil Tolentino and Suerte also had 12 points apiece for the Warriors, who improved to 2-5.
The Bulldogs slipped to 1-6.
Eagles coach Tab Baldwin heaped praises on his charges for keeping their emotions in check.
“There was a lot of emotions in the game, but I thought our guys played fairly and methodically,” said Baldwin. “We didn’t get carried away with the crowd and the emotions. After all, it’s just a regular season game.”
Ateneo took a 35-32 cushion at the half but broke the game wide-open behind a 17-3 blitz capped by an Adrian Wong three-pointer that gave the Eagles of Katipunan a 52-35 spread at the 6:08 mark of the third stanza.
UP coach Bo Perasol was ejected after he confronted referee Jaime Rivano for what he deemed was a foul that should been called on Kouame after he challenged Maroon backup center’s Jerson Prado’s shot inside.
Ateneo enjoyed a 61-46 bulge going into the payoff period and was never threatened from there.
The Eagles built their biggest lead at 89-62 on a Tyler Tio triple, only 44 ticks left.
Kobe Paras paced UP with 15 points while Javi Gomez de Liaño and Jun Manzo had 14 and 12, respectively.