Defending champion Ateneo bucked a sluggish start to defeat Far Eastern University, 74-71, in UAAP Season 75 action Saturday at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Prized big man Greg Slaughter scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Ateneo to its sixth victory in seven games.
After finishing the first period with a slim 21-18 lead, the Tamaraws unleashed a 14-5 blast led by RR Garcia and Anthony Hargrove to build a 12-point lead, 35-23, before closing out the first half with a 37-27 cushion.
But Ateneo woke up in the third quarter, when Juami Tiongson and Nico Elorde combined for three three-pointers to help cut the deficit to four points, 53-49.
Nico Salva’s basket with 7:46 left in the game finally gave the lead to Ateneo, 56-55.
Slaughter, JP Erram and Kiefer Ravena then conspired for a 9-0 run to give the Blue Eagles a commanding 69-60 lead with just over a minute left.
The Tamaraws still threatened late in the game, as Mark Bringas and RR Garcia buried back-to-back three-pointers to trim their deficit to four points, 70-66, with 41.4 seconds left.
However, a costly turnover by FEU and made free throws by Ateneo late in the game put the game out of reach.
“In the first half, we didn’t do a good job,” Ateneo coach Norman Black said. “We tried to gamble a lot for steals.”
Ravena contributed 12 points and three rebounds for Ateneo.