Tab Baldwin has already made it clear that Ateneo de Manila University isn't robotic.
The Blue Eagles themselves proved him right, Saturday at Araneta Coliseum, showing there was no way they would have any rust as they gave University of Sto. Tomas a taste of its own medicine in a resounding 91-77 rout in Game 1 of the UAAP 82 Men's Basketball Finals.
Coming off a two-week layoff, the two-time defending champions were recharged, revitalized, and rejuvenated - especially Thirdy Ravena who waxed hot from start to finish and totaled 32 points on top of five rebounds and three assists.
Ravena also had all but seven points in their blazing 18-2 beginning as they exploited all the errors they forced from the Growling Tigers in the first five minutes.
Ateneo would only press harder on the pedal, boosting to a lead of as big as 23 points, 66-43, in the third quarter.
And in the end, they never trailed and were never threatened to keep their slate spotless in the season and keep their hopes of a season sweep alive and well.
Their top gun definitely wasn’t alone as Ange Kouame posted an 18-point, 12-rebound double-double while SJ Belangel also added an all-around 12 markers, five assists, four boards, and two steals.
At the other end, the Blue Eagles’ defense was just as dominant, slowing down UST’s high-octane offense to just 38 percent shooting from the field.
That was because the black and gold never got going in terms of their rhythm as Baldwin’s boys forced 16 turnovers which were quickly converted into 27 points.
With that, Ateneo made a living in the open court, actually outplaying their run-and-gun opponents for a 23-8 margin in fastbreak points.
The Blue Eagles are hoping for more of the same in Game 2 scheduled for Wednesday at MOA Arena.
If they do, they would wrap up the school's first-ever season sweep and the greatest run in league history as previous season sweeps wound up with 14-0 records.
For UST, Rookie of the Year Mark Nonoy was the bright spot with 26 points while CJ Cansino made his presence felt elsewhere with four markers, 13 rebounds, and six assists.
Season MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo was limited, for his standards, to only 13 points and 10 rebounds. He hopes to put out a better effort as they head into another knockout bout.
The good news for them is before the Finals, the Growling Tigers had to win three elimination games in a row.
ATENEO 91 - Ravena 32, Kouame 18, Belangel 12, Mamuyac 9, Navarro 6, Nieto Mi 5, Nieto Ma 5, Wong 3, Daves 2, Andrade 0, Go 0, Maagdenberg 0, Mallillin 0
UST 77 - Nonoy 26, Paraiso 14, Chabi Yo 13, Subido 8, Cansino 4, Abando 3, Concepcion 3, Ando 2, Bataller 2, Huang 2
QUARTER SCORES: 32-17, 54-39, 76-58, 91-77
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