Ateneo de Manila University came alive in the second half as it tamed Far Eastern University, 65-55, to remain unscathed in Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
The defending champions Blue Eagles held the Tamaraws to just 15 points while uncorking 36 markers in the final 20 minutes en route to soaring to their 11th straight win in as many games.
Ateneo also heavily outrebounded FEU, 34-19, in the second half highlighted by 18 offensive boards that resulted in 19-second chance points.
“The guys became who we believed we are in the second half. Defensively, we were really locked down and offensively we were rebounding the ball much better,” said Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin.
“Players went out in the second half with a purpose that we didn’t have in the first half,” added the American-Kiwi tactician, whose team inched just three triumphs away from a 14-game elimination round sweep that grants an automatic finals spot.
In the first game, an undermanned De La Salle University posted a bounce-back victory at the expense of University of the East (UE), 65-59, and reentered the magic four.
Fourth-year forward Justine Baltazar drained 10 of his 23 points in the last eight minutes as the Green Archers rebounded from a 69-77 loss to Ateneo and improved to an even 5-5.
“We’re lucky we pulled it through. We have players who had flu and some who are injured,” said La Salle mentor Gian Nazario.
Six-foot-10 Ivorian center Ange Kouame pumped in a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds, while captain Thirdy Ravena also racked up 10 markers to go with nine boards in leading Ateneo’s assault.
Fil-Kiwi forward Pat Maagdenberg shone with a career-high 9 points built on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting clip, William Navarro and Adrian Wong added eight markers apiece even as six other Eagles contributed in offense.
Ateneo started out flat as FEU took a huge 42-29 lead on L-Jay Gonzales’ layup off an inbound pass early in the third period.
The Eagles turned things around, staging a fiery 25-5 rally bridging the closing quarters for a 54-47 advantage.
Wendell Comboy’s back-to-back triples pushed the Tamaraws within 55-57 but Navarro, Ravena and Kouame put up a six-point swing, 63-55, to secure the win with still 1:29 remaining.
Gonzales had 12 points and six rebounds, while Brandrey Bienes and Comboy had eight markers each for FEU, which fell to 5-6.
One-and-done forward Jamie Malonzo and guard Encho Serrano registered 12 points apiece for the Archers, who sent the No. 7 Red Warriors crashing to their third straight loss and down to 3-8.