UAAP Finals: 'Matty Ice' extinguishes flames of red-hot UP

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Dec 01, 2018 08:41 PM
UAAP Finals: 'Matty Ice' extinguishes flames of red-hot UP
Matt Nieto and Ateneo turned down the hype on UP

Safe to say, the UAAP 81 Men’s Basketball Tournament hasn’t gone according to plan for Matt Nieto.

Ateneo de Manila University’s court general, now in his fourth season, has only averaged 6.4 points, 2.5 assists, and 2.3 rebounds after playing only 11 out of 15 games.

Once he went on the biggest stage and under the brightest lights of the tournament, however, the real Matt Nieto showed up.

Scoring a career-high 27 points built on four triples, the heady guard keyed the Blue Eagles’ convincing victory versus the University of the Philippines in Game 1 of the Finals.

He did all of that, in the face of the red-hot Fighting Maroons, who were backed by a rowdy crowd.

Of course, if there’s one collegiate team which knows how to persevere through that, it’s Ateneo – and if there’s one collegiate player which knows how to persevere through that, it’s “Matty Ice.”

“Yung mindset namin as a team, paglabas namin sa MOA, nakita namin yung crowd, sabi ko, ‘Hindi ba naranasan na natin ‘to,’” he shared. “Yung Jones Cup experience namin, naranasan na namin yan so sabi ko, we were overpowered by the Taiwanese (fans) when we were up against them. This is nothing new for us.”

During the 2018 Jones Cup last July, the Blue Eagles flew to Taiwan to take on national and club teams from other countries. There, Nieto also hit a memorable game-winner against Chinese Taipei Blue.

Since then, he has had to power through a left pinky fracture as well as dengue – injury and illness that have slowed down his current campaign.

That is exactly why, now in the Finals, the 6-foot playmaker was nothing but thankful for retaining the full faith of head coach Tab Baldwin – in what has been a down season for him.  “I credit Coach Tab and my teammates for trusting me in that situation. I just want to win because I’m a competitive person and I don’t want to lose to any team,” he said.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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