For the first time in the UAAP 82 Men’s Basketball Tournament, Ateneo de Manila University was under siege for majority of the matchup.
Still, the Blue Eagles were able to dig deep before fighting off Far Eastern University for a well-earned 65-55 win, Wednesday at MOA Arena.
The defending champions had to battle back from a deficit as big as 13, but in the end, aced their toughest test thus far in the tournament and ascended to an immaculate 11-0 in the standings.
At the same time, they ran up their overall winning streak to 21 in a row dating back to last year’s first round.
The team to have downed Ateneo then? The Tamaraws.
FEU actually look like it was about to repeat the feat as L-Jay Gonzales commandeered them into a 40-29 lead at halftime.
It was at that point, though, that the Blue Eagles regrouped and clawed their way back into the game. "The guys became who we believe we are in the second half," head coach Tab Baldwin said post-game.
When the Tamaraws yet again charged to within two, 55-57, inside the last four minutes, the defending champions shooed them away for good courtesy of an 8-0 backbreaker that saw Will Navarro, Thirdy Ravena, Ange Kouame, and Gian Mamuyac coming together.
Kouame towered above all in this win, posting a 10-point, 15-rebound double-double to go along with four blocks while Ravena had his own 10 markers, nine boards, two assists, and two steals.
Kouame did most of his damage at the offensive end where he got 12 rebounds - matching the entire output of all their opponents. "We rebounded better. That's why we came out better in the second half," coach Tab.
Behind its Ivorian tower, Ateneo totaled 25 big-time second chance points, essentially turning the lights out of FEU.
Gonzales paced the green and gold with 12 points while Rey Bienes and Wendell Comboy also added eight markers apiece.
Unable to sustain their strong start, however, they dropped to 5-6 in the standings.
ATENEO 65 - Kouame 10, Ravena 10, Maagdenberg 9, Navarro 8, Wong 8, Belangel 5, Daves 4, Ma. Nieto 4, Mamuyac 3, Go 2, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Tio 0.
FEU 55 - Gonzales 12, Bienes 8, Comboy 8, Tuffin 6, Cani 4, Ebona 4, Stockton 4, Tchuente 4, Torres 3, Alforque 2.
QUARTER SCORES: 15-18, 29-40, 46-47, 65-55.
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