Defending champion Ateneo needed a late-game rally to thump Far Eastern University, 77-64, in UAAP Season 75 action Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Guard Juami Tiongson scored 16 points, while forward Nico Salva chipped in 15 points to lead Ateneo to its eighth victory in nine games.
In a game marked by runs from both teams, the Blue Eagles got the edge early, having an 11-0 start in a tense first quarter that saw the ejections of Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe and FEU’s Rey Belo, who were slapped each with a technical foul and an unsportsmanlike foul due to an altercation in the 4:42 mark of the period.
The Tamaraws broke loose after that, with guard Terrence Romeo sparking a 13-1 blast to put FEU within two, 15-13, after the first quarter.
FEU gained control at the start of the second quarter, with forward Gryann Mendoza tying the game at 17 at the 8:28 mark of the period to ignite a 7-0 run and help the Tamaraws grab a 34-32 advantage at the half.
But Ateneo fired back as Tiongson, Kiefer Ravena and center Justin Chua conspired in a 17-9 run to help the Blue Eagles regain the lead, 49-43, after the third quarter.
Things also got contentious in the fourth quarter after FEU’s Arvie Bringas got ejected in the middle of the quarter for spitting on the court.
After that, the Blue Eagles unleashed a 10-0 run, capped by a triple from Tiongson to give Ateneo its biggest lead at 18, 65-48, with 5:30 left in the quarter and eventually sealed the victory.
Despite the intense physicality, Ateneo coach Norman Black said that he still kept his team focused on the game.
“We’re not gonna back down against anybody,” Black said. “We don’t want the physicality to take us away from the game.”
Ravena scored 12 points, while Greg Slaughter finished with 10 points and nine rebounds for Ateneo.
Guard RR Garica registered 14 points for FEU, which suffered their third loss in 10 games.
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