By Claro Manzano
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. NU Bulldogs 79-64
Ange Kouame, Ateneo (19 points on 9/15 FGs, 17 rebounds [10 offensive], and six blocks)
The mere presence of the Ivorian already proved to be enough to stifle the Bulldogs. Although Kouame was not the focal point of Ateneo’s attack, his presence gave even more confidence to his teammates as he continuously cleaned up misses for easy putbacks. Kouame was unmatched inside and even grabbed multiple offensive boards in a single play at the second period prior to scoring off a putback.
Thirdy Ravena (23 points, 12 rebounds, and 3 assists), Ateneo
Last season’s finals MVP easily finished with a double-double performance while going through the flow in Tab Baldwin’s system. At a point in time, NU resorted to a 1-3-1 zone defense but Ravena and company made them pay the price with timely shots from downtown.
Tyler Tio, Ateneo (3 points and 4 assists)
Tio continues to show his worth for the Blue Eagles. With starting point guard Matt Nieto still out due to health issues, the Xavier alumnus has seamlessly filled in the lead playmaker role for the Blue-and-White. He may have not racked up numbers but was vital in breaking down the NU defense and keeping Ateneo in cruise control.
John Clemente, NU (25 points on 10/17 FGs, and 8 rebounds)
The rookie proved to be the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs with a career-high on an efficient performance from the field. Clemente looked to get his team going with his all-around offensive game but failed to receive consistent support. Despite getting blown out, the future of NU appears to be in good hands.
Dave Ildefonso, NU (13 points and 6 rebounds)
The transferee from Ateneo finished as the only double-digit scorer for the Bulldogs outside of Clemente. Ildefonso’s penetration was stifled by Kouame but a number of his kickout passes provided some fluidity and perimeter points for NU.
- The Blue Eagles are still without twins Matt and Mike Nieto. Five Ateneans logged in at least 10 minutes each off the bench for Tab Baldwin. As a result of its depth, Ateneo is in good hands heading into the Final Four.
- Ateneo made quick work of NU from the get-go with an all-around attack. They went on to take an early 19-6 lead and led by as many as 24 points. Kouame and Ravena led the way with their scoring, but it was the entire team’s effort that helped their cause.
- Kouame continuously asserted himself down low as Ateneo had a subpar performance from behind the arc and went 6/27. The Blue Eagles’ cohesion and post play proved to be more than enough to overcome NU’s 36-24 advantage from the perimeter.
- It was too little too late for the Bulldogs as they resorted to trapping the pick and roll to stifle Ateneo in the latter stages of the game. The Bulldogs went on to outscore the Blue-and-White in the second half by 7, 39-32.