After a tough one-point loss against UST in their last game, the four-time defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles bounced back with a superb effort against early-season contenders NU, 89-65, in UAAP Season 75 action Sunday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The Blue Eagles started the game strong and sustained their effort the rest of the way as they cruised to their second win of the tournament.
Nico Salva, Kiefer Ravena and Greg Slaughter all entered double figures before the halftime break, with Ateneo already comfortably ahead by 19 points. In their game against UST last Thursday, the Blue Eagles led by as much 19 points, but couldn’t stop a Growling Tigers rally that erased their advantage by the end of the third.
They made sure there was no such rally in this one.
“We played very well against UST for 20 minutes and came out in the second half and really relaxed and didn’t play very good defense or offense,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “So today we just wanted to play a complete 40 minutes, the entire game, and luckily we were able to get that done.”
Salva led the Blue Eagles with 21 points while Ravena had an all-around line with 17 points, six rebounds and five assists. Slaughter finished with 14 points, 13 boards and five assists while reserve big man Justin Chua scored 12 points in just 14 minutes of action.
“I told the guys after (the UST loss) that the game was a wake-up call for us,” said Salva. “We should recognize our mistakes. And it’s all about playing defense and playing Ateneo basketball, which is sharing the ball and playing with teamwork.”
No one exemplified that more than the Blue Eagles’ two Mythical Five players awardees from last year, Slaughter and Ravena, who led Ateneo in assists against the Bulldogs.
“We know that we’re a good team. We just have to make it work,” said Ravena. “You saw it in the first half of the UST game. But we went to our tendencies of being individual players again. We talked about that before this game and the coaches really helped wake us up.”
UAAP Season 74 MVP Bobby Ray Parks led all scorers with 22 points but could not keep the Bulldogs from falling to Ateneo for the ninth straight time in the UAAP.
Ateneo (89) – Salva 21, Ravena, 17, Slaughter 14, Chua 12, Gonzaga 9, Tiongson 8, Elorde 3, Buenafe 3, Erram 2, Porter 0, Pessumal 0, Capacio 0.
NU (65) – Parks 22, Mbe 14, Villamor 10, Ignacio 6, Rono 5, De Guzman 2, Betayene 2, Alolino 2, Khobuntin 1, Javillonar 1, Rosario 0, Neypes 0, Labing-isa 0.
Quarterscores: 28-17, 55-34, 72-54, 89-65.