MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles played minus one of their top guns yet still grabbed the solo lead in the UAAP men's basketball tournament.
Playing without main point guard Matt Nieto, the Blue Eagles turned back the University of the Philippines Maroons, 83-66, to claim the top spot at 6-2 at the start of the second round at the Mall of Asia Arena on Sunday, October 14.
Thirdy Ravena led the Blue Eagles with a game-high 21 points plus 11 rebounds for a double-double finish on top of 2 steals and 2 blocks
Tyler Tio drew the start in place of Nieto and chipped in 12 points and 5 assists for the Blue Eagles, who also downed the Maroons in the first round, 87-79, to complete an elimination sweep.
Nieto sat out due to a fractured finger.
“It was important for us to come out strong in the second round, especially we're coming off a loss to FEU,” said Ateneo deputy Sandy Arespacochaga.
“Given the current situation, and more than just that, we wanted to come into this game and focus on UP. It was just more than the standings for us. We wanted to make sure to come out and play well. We wanted to focus on our intensity and effort, we didn't want it to go down. I think we did a pretty good job.”
Ateneo made an early push in the 4th quarter highlighted by a cool up-and-under move, 56-48. Jolo Mendoza piled on the Maroons' woes with an open 3 a few possessions later, 61-50.
UP's troubles wouldn't end there as key forward Javi Gomez de Liaño got ejected off his second technical foul with 5:42 left in the period. He got his first tech earlier in the game after throwing the ball to Ange Kouame.
Speaking of Kouame, he then crushed a vicious alley-oop jam right after the ejection to pile on a 10-point lead, 66-56.
And the Blue Eagles just kept rolling as Kouame and Ravena later dropped a pair of dagger dunks to seal the deal, 75-60, with just 1:53 left in regulation.
The Maroons fell to 3-5.
Leading MVP candidate Bright Akhuetie churned out his usual 20 points and 8 boards on an 8-of-10 (80%) shooting.
Paul Desiderio had his best outing of the season with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists, albeit in another loss.
Ateneo 83 – Ravena 21, Tio 12, Verano 10, Mendoza 10, Asistio 9, Kouame 9, Mamuyac 6, Belangel 4, Go 2, Navarro 0, Black 0, Wong 0.
UP 66 – Akhuetie 20, Desiderio 16, Manzo 8, Gomez de Liano Ju 5, Gomez de Liano Ja 4, Dario 3, Jaboneta 2, Prado 2, Murrell 2, Vito 2, Gozum 2, Spencer 0, Lim 0.
Quarters: 18-15, 35-29, 54-48, 83-66.