NU shows character, spoils Ateneo’s undefeated record

Jane Bracher

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National University held Kiefer Ravena to 3-20 shooting to hand Ateneo their first loss of Season 77
DOG FIGHT. National University's Adven Diputado puts up a layup over Ateneo's Nico Elorde and Arvin Tolentino. Photo by Josh Albelda/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – The National University Bulldogs bounced back in supreme fashion following their close loss to the defending champion Green Archers by clipping the Ateneo Blue Eagles, 64-60, in the men’s basketball tournament of the UAAP Season 77 on Saturday, July 26 at the Mall of Asia Arena.  

Much like the UST versus Adamson game before it, this match between two powerhouse squads was also decided from the free throw line.  

The Bulldogs made 7 of their last 12 free throws just as Ateneo was banging on their doors after an Alfonso Gotladera putback off the glass that made it just a one-point 57-56 affair with less than two minutes to play. 

Nico Javelona kept the Eagles at bay with a couple of charities, 59-56, with 1:24 remaining before he took to the line again to hit on one of his two attempts, 60-56.  

NU passed the test of character and stuck with their defensive game plan in spite of splits from the line starting at the 1:03 mark of the fourth all the way to the end as they successfully put Ateneo away for good and spoiled their once squeaky clean slate.

“I think the team really showed character today, especially when we missed our free throws,” head coach Eric Altamirano said of his team NU.  

“It all boiled down to never giving up and closing out the game.” 

Both teams are now tied atop the standings with 3-1 win-loss records. 

Kiefer Ravena and Arvin Tolentino tried to take control of the game with triples during the final minute but the shots wouldn’t fall and the Bulldogs’ defense held up enough to control the possessions and make the stops they needed in the endgame.  

“We felt in the end we really needed to focus on our defense, making stops, stopping Kiefer (Ravena), and pressuring the point guards,” Altamirano explained.  

Tolentino and Ravena led the Eagles with 17 and 13 markers, respectively. 

Tolentino added 9 rebounds to his name while Ravena had 6 assists. Ravena shot just 3-of-20 from the field. 

“We committed to really playing team defense against Ateneo. We know we’re not an offensive team so we relied on sheer defense.”

Trailing by 49-43 entering the fourth despite moments of brilliance from Tolentino and Gotladera (7 points, 7 boards), Ateneo slowly but surely outscored NU in the final frame, 8-3, ending on a Nico Elorde basket with 3:43 remaining to inch to within 1, 52-51.  

But Troy Rosario and Alfred Aroga delivered on the other end to prevent Ateneo from wresting control of the wheel, 55-51, with over 3 minutes left.  

Rosario, the perennial match-up nightmare for NU’s opponents, was all over the floor once again for Altamirano, posting 16 points and 8 rebounds along with two assists and a steal.  

Aroga, meanwhile, had 9 points and 11 boards.  

“I’m very proud of our boys, especially our bench,” Altamirano said. He received ample contribution of 28 points from his second and third units compared to only 16 by Ateneo. 

“The identity of our team is not really relying on one person but really more of a collective effort. Now, pinakita ng team yun.” (Now, our team showed just that.)

Jess Diputado stepped up for Gelo Alolino in this game with his 10 markers and one assist. 

Alolino, who is Altamirano’s primary playmaker, finished with just 6 points, one dime and two thefts.  

“Gelo will always be our leader,” Altamirano assured. “He will always be our primary point guard.”

NU controlled the pace for the most part, keeping Ateneo from sprinting too much and getting points off the break, and dominating the paint like they should with their massive frontline (30 inside points). 

But the Bulldogs also had their outside shooting clicking for them, keeping in step with Ateneo with 19 perimeter points against the Eagles’ 24. 


NU (64): Rosario 16, Diputado 10, Aroga 9, Khobuntin 8, Alolino 6, Javelona 6, Betayene 4, Atangan 2, Celda 2, Alejandro 1, Neypes 0. 

Ateneo (60): Tolentino 17, Ravena K. 13, Gotladera 7, Pessumal 7, Elorde 6, Newsome 6, Porter 2, Lim 2, Capacio 0, Babilonia 0. 

Quarter scores: 15-15, 33-31, 49-43, 64-60.

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