A SLUGGISH first half against Far Eastern Univeristy served as a wake-up call for defending two-time champion Ateneo yesterday.
Jolted back to their senses, the Blue Eagles battled back to post a 65-55 victory over the gritty Tamaraws for their 11th straight win in the 82nd UAAP basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Six-foot-11 Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast showed the way for Ateneo with 10 points and 15 rebounds while athletic forward Thirdy Ravena chipped in 10 markers and 10 boards.
Pat Maagdenberg and William Navarro also combined for 17 points as the Eagles remained unbeaten and handed FEU its sixth loss in 11 matches.
In the other game, flu-hit and injury-plagued La Salle got back at University of the East as it pulled off a 65-59 victory for its fifth win.
Lanky big man Justine Baltazar scored 23 points, 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter, to go with 13 rebounds for the Green Archers while Jamie Malonzo had 12 markers and six caroms.
Encho Serrano also tossed in 12 points for La Salle, which improved to 5-5.
The Red Warriors absorbed their second defeat in a row and slipped to 3-8.
Ateneo ripped the Tams 63-46 in their first meeting last Sept. 14.
Despite repeating over the Tams, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin was far from pleased.
“I don’t care if we have 10 playing dates in a row, if you lose your humility to be good, if you think all you need to do is put your uniform on, you need a wakeup call. I wish we never did, but we are human. FEU certainly gave us a wakeup call in the first half that we needed,” said Baldwin.
“We became who we believe we are in the second half. We locked down defensively and rebounded better. The players came out with a purpose,” he added.
The Eagles trailed 29-40 at the half and starred at a 29-42 hole— the biggest deficit they faced this season— on an LJ Gonzales basket at the 8:49 mark of the third stanza.
Ateneo razed FEU’s lead to 46-47 going into the payoff period. The Eagles unleashed an 8-0 blitz capped by Adrian Wong’s two free throws that made it a 54-47 game with 7:18 remaining in the fourth.
A Wendell Comboy triple pulled the Tams to within 55-57 with 3:43 left but Ateneo retaliated with an 8-0 windup to seal the win.
Gonzales was the lone bright spot for FEU with 12 points.
The Archers redeemed themselves from a stunning 88-89 setback inflicted by UE in their initial duel last Sept. 14.