Three-peat seeking Ateneo flexed its muscles and soared over UST in a grinded-out win, 66-52 Saturday evening at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo's win extends their immaculate start at eight straight wins.
The Growling Tigers, who posed the biggest threat against the Blue Eagles in the first round, could not match Ateneo's intensity on offense this time around as they sank to an even 4-4 record.
Ateneo zoomed to a 10-0 spurt to build an 11-point lead, 26-15, from a field goal by Thirdy Ravena at the 3:22 mark of the second quarter.
The Ateneans then only allowed the Thomasians to just score two more points in the rest of the first half to lead 26-17.
UST came to as close as five in the third quarter, 30-25, but the Blue Eagles always brought back the lead to 10 on multiple locations and led 42-35 after three.
Nonoy's hot hands became instrumental in UST's comeback attempt in the fourth quarter, nailing two from downtown to help trim the deficit to six, 54-48, with 3:48 left.
Tyler Tio's jumper however doused the spirited run, with SJ Belangel hitting a couple of big shots in crunch time to put the game away for good,
Ravena ended up with 17 points and nine rebounds, but turned the ball over eight times.
Second-year guard Belangel scored eight of his 11 points in the payoff period, including the dagger three that put his side ahead, 62-50, with 1:48 left.
"That was a tough, really tough and physical game," said Blue Eagles mentor Tab Baldwin. "Probably too physical for what the sport of basketball should be but if that's what the powers that be want, that's what they should get."
UST failed to capitalize on the low-scoring affair, with just Nonoy scoring in double digits.
The Rookie of the Year frontrunner was the lone ranger for UST as he scored a career-high 18 points, including 4/7 from downtown.
Leading MVP candidate Soulemane Chabi Yo was limited to six points and 14 rebounds.
ATENEO (66) -- Ravena 17, Belangel 11, Go 8, Ma. Nieto 6, Wong 6, Tio 5, Mi. Nieto 4, Navarro 3, Daves 2, Kouame 2, Mamuyac 2, Maagdenberg 0.
UST (52) -- Nonoy 18, Abando 7, Bataller 6, Chabi Yo 6, Concepcion 6, Subido 5, Ando 2, Cansino 2, Bordeos 0, Huang 0, Paraiso 0.
Quarter Scores: 10-8, 26-17, 42-35, 66-52.
- The game was a disaster for both teams in terms of offense. Ateneo shot 26/67 (38.9%) while UST had an abysmal 18/63 from the field (28.6%).
- UST, the league's top offense at 81.0 ppg, was 29 points short of their season average.