Flaunting precise execution in the second half, the Ateneo Blue Eagles came away with their sixth straight victory after an 85-68 rout of the UE Wednesday at the MOA Arena.
The defending champions put the stranglehold on their opponent in the third period to turn a one-point halftime deficit into a lopsided victory. Clicking on both ends, they flipped a 35-34 UE lead into a 19-point advantage entering the final frame. They outscored UE, 35-15, in that pivotal third quarter, including a back-breaking 23-5 run highlighted by a triple from Adrian Wong.
Despite the final score, Ateneo was definitely put to the test early.
"I think it's probably appropriate to talk more about UE than us. They came out with a good game plan," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. "They obviously took notes watching us play. They used some counters to some of our defensive tactics which were effective particularly in the first half."
Led by super scorer Rey Suerte, the Red Warriors were hunting for the upset early on. They were aggressive in every possession and made life difficult for Ateneo's top scorers. In the second half, however, the experience and poise from the two-time champions came alive.
"I was a little bit annoyed with the team. I think we shouldn't need timeouts, we shouldn't need halftimes to adjust. We have to expect that when you play a little different style that teams are going to pick you apart, they're going to analyze it, they're going to have counters to what you are doing, we should anticipate them, we should expect that. For whatever reason, our first half was something that we have to learn and then forget about it and move on," assessed Baldwin.
"The third quarter was the kind effort I want to see in the team all the time. They played with some fire, some determination."
Angelo Kouame put up another strong double-double performance of 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Ivorian center was once again a defensive force as he registered three blocks. Thirdy Ravena chipped in with 15 points and five boards while Wong fired away 11, anchored by three triples.
Suerte, meanwhile, finished with 15 points and did a little bit of everything with six rebounds and six assists. Unfortunately for UE, no other player reached double-digits as Chris Conner and Neil Tolentino had nine points apiece.
"I was pretty happy with the third quarter. Ultimately, we got the win. We move forward now and look at UP," said Baldwin.
Ateneo looks for a sweep of the first round in a rematch of last year's finals against the Fighting Maroons on Sunday. On the other hand, UE with its 1-5 record, faces the NU Bulldogs who are coming off their first win of the season.
ATENEO 85 -- Kouame 16, Ravena 15, Wong 11, Navarro 9, Belangel 6, Go 6, Mamuyac 6, Tio 5, Maagdenberg 4, Chiu 3, Ma. Nieto 2, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Credo 0, Daves 0, Mallillin 0.
UE 68 -- Suerte 15, Conner 9, Tolentino 9, Diakhite 8, Abanto 6, Cruz 6, Camacho 5, Mendoza 5, Pagsanjan 5, Antiporda 0, Beltran 0. Quarters: 11-15, 34-35, 69-50, 85-68.
- Ateneo trailed after the opening quarter for the first time this season as UE led 15-11.
- This was the 16th straight win of Ateneo dating back to last season.
- The Blue Eagles had a strong defensive outing, forcing 26 turnovers and registering 11 blocks.
ADMU - September 29 (Sunday) vs UP at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum
UE - September 29 (Sunday) vs NU at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum