The Ateneo Blue Eagles earned their third straight win in UAAP Season 82 by overcoming a grueling test from the UST Growling Tigers, 71-70, Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum.
In the face-off between the two undefeated squads, the defending champions had to fight tooth and nail to keep their record unblemished while handing the Tigers their first loss in three games.
"We understood that game was going to be a really tough game. I feel very, very fortunate we won the game," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. "That's the kind of game you can credit the team as much as you want. You can talk about character and toughness, and pulling it out in the crunch and all of that, but I think that every applaud that you give your team, the other team deserves exactly the same thing because that game could have gone either way."
It was a battle of attrition at breakneck speed with the game ultimately coming down the wire.
Renz Subido drilled a booming triple to give UST the advantage, 67-64, with three and a half minutes remaining. Ateneo then regained the lead, leaning on back-to-back baskets from Thirdy Ravena and Ange Kouame. For the next three minutes, however, both teams played terrific defense but struggled to score.
With time winding down the Tigers failed to retake the lead. Misses from CJ Cansino and Brent Paraiso as well as Chabi Yo getting rejected, summed up the Tigers' offense in the next couple of possessions. Free throws from Ravena and Matt Nieto gave the Eagles a 71-67 advantage with 3.9 seconds left, giving them enough cushion in the endgame. Subido sank a desperation 3-pointer as time expired as Ateneo held on for the win.
Ravena scored 11 of his team-high 17 points in the second half while pulling down 10 rebounds while Kouame also had a double-double with 11 points and 10 boards.
Ateneo enjoyed an 11-point first-half lead before UST came clawing back. The Tigers found their footing and tried to push the pace on every possession against the reigning champions. UST even held a four-point advantage at the half.
"If you want to talk maybe tactically, there's not a lot in it. I thought Aldin (Ayo) did a good job rotating his players, system-wise they're a handful to control. I think if anything that turned the tide in the second half, we fixed some of our rebounding problems," said Baldwin.
For UST, Soulemane Chabi Yo had another strong outing of 25 points and 13 rebounds while the trio of Rhenz Abando, Mark Nonoy, and Renzo Subido contributed nine points apiece.
"We're blessed with the win and no time to really take a break. [We face] FEU on the weekend and that's where we have to get our minds focused next," said Baldwin.
Ateneo stayed perfect at 3-0 while UST now holds a 2-1 record.
ATENEO 71 -- Ravena 17, Kouame 11, Mamuyac 10, Navarro 8, Belangel 6, Maagdenberg 6, Ma. Nieto 5, Go 3, Wong 3, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Daves 0, Tio 0.
UST 70 -- Chabi Yo 25, Abando 9, Nonoy 9, Subido 9, Huang 6, Cansino 4, Concepcion 4, Ando 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0.
Quarters: 23-13, 33-37, 53-56, 71-70.