Isaac Go displayed a great performance to power Ateneo De Manila University to a 74-64 triumph over University of Santo Tomas (UST) on Saturday to grab the solo second in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines Season 79 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The big man Go piled up 14 of his 15 points in the first three quarters on 7-of-9 shooting in the field plus four rebounds while guard Mike Nieto hit five of his 13 points in the payoff period to strengthen the Blue Eagles’ bid of snaring the last twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four with a 9-4 mark.
“A win is a win but we’re not happy to what we’ve played and performed,” said Go. “We started flat in the first half and UST came out ready to play. They really wanted to make a statement. We gave credit to their performance.”
Ateneo will be playing last Final Four qualifier Adamson University on Wednesday at the Araneta Coliseum. A victory over Adamson will strengthen its chances of gaining the last twice-to-beat advantage.
“I gave the credit to UST. We respected them because today is their last game of the season, last game as host and they gave us (UST) a good fight,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin, who assumed the position of head coach starting the second round, during the post game interview.
“We are happy that we got the win but we need to play better basketball than we played today and the boys know that,” he added. “The expectation has begun to escalate a bit for this team. It is unfair but that’s life. It’s up to us to live in those expectations. We preferably fell short of our expectation.”
Forward Michael Tolentino contributed 11 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks also for Ateneo.
Defense proved to be UST’s game in the first period limiting Ateneo to only five points in the first four minutes of the game, but the Blue Eagles were able to ward off the Growling Tigers’ defense as they closed out the first quarter ahead, 16-15.
The Blue Eagles couldn’t even stretch their lead up to double-digit as the Growling Tigers matched their intensity in the second quarter. Despite struggling in the offensive end, Ateneo ended the half leading by just 38-36 behind the performance of Go and Tolentino.
Ateneo started to widen the gap at the start of second half taking a 48-40 lead behind Tolentino’s lay-up, but UST still in jabbing distance although trailing by 53-58 at the end of the third frame. Ateneo controlled the entire final canto to seal the victory.
The Growling Tigers ended their Season 79 campaign as league host with 3-11 win-loss record under coach Boy Sablan. Louie Vigil played his last game and led the Growling Tigers with 14 points on a terrible 5-of-16 shooting in the field.
Ateneo out played UST in rebounding (50-33), three-pointers (5-3), assists (20-9) and steals (4-2).
Meanwhile, the De la Salle University Green Archers regained their winning ways by posting a come-from-behind 73-67 victory over defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) to close out their elimination round campaign on a high note.
Skipper Jeron Teng scored 17 points while Ben Mbala racked up 16 points and pulled down 16 rebounds to lead the Green Archers, who ended the elimination round with a 13-1 win-loss record. Kib Montalbo and Aljun Melecio had 12 points also for La Salle. FEU fell to 8-5 win-loss record with only one game left in the elimination. The Tamaraws will face the University of the East Red Warriors on Wednesday for their last game in the elimination.