Ateneo Blue Eagles def. NU Bulldogs, 88-51
Angelo Kouame (17 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal, 3 blocks, 7/13 FG)
The Ivorian did everything in just 23 minutes and seven seconds of playtime. Whether he was matched-up against Issa Gaye or any of the quick undersized big men of NU, Kouame stuck to his game and dominated the paint. His fit with Issac Go in the starting line-up was seamless as there were instances when they interchanged doing high-low plays which led to a number of easy baskets.
Thirdy Ravena (15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal)
Ravena was aggressive early on as he registered five points in the opening six minutes. The former Blue Eaglet maintained this level of play in the second half and helped ease the scoring burden on Kouame. He also showed a wide array of offensive moves which made it extra difficult for the defenders to predict his next step.
Tyler Tio (9 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers, 3/4 3-PT FG)
Ateneo’s back-up point guard had a delightful outing off the bench as he buried three shots beyond the arc. Aside from his shooting prowess and reliable playmaking, Tio was also steady on the defensive end against the Bulldogs. The commitment was evident as he constantly pressured the ball-handlers of NU which led to a few turnovers.
Shaun Ildefonso (21 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 8/16 FG, 2/3 3-PT FG)
The only player who scored in double digits for the Bulldogs. The older Ildefonso was fearless in challenging the defending champions as he fought brilliantly on both ends of the floor despite playing just 20 minutes off the bench. He kept his team within striking distance at the start of the second quarter (hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit down to seven, 25-18), but it was not enough as the Blue Eagles finished the half strong with two answered dunks from Kouame and Ravena.
- After receiving a vicious blow on the head in their previous game, regular starter Will Navarro sat out against the Bulldogs thus giving Go, the graduating center, his first start this season. The twin-towers combination (Kouame and Go) by Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin did not play heavy minutes together, but it definitely worked wonders for the team. On the defensive end, both players were agile enough to chase the undersized big men of NU in the perimeter. Their height and length also frustrated Gaye, who scored his first and only field goal at the 3:16 mark of the third period.
- With Go moving in the starting line-up for this game, Baldwin went small ball for his second unit. Matthew Daves and Troy Mallillin were the big men towards the end of the first canto. Mallillin and Pat Maagdenberg then shared frontcourt duties with Daves in the second half.
- The Bulldogs only led once (2-0 to start the game) and struggled to unlock the suffocating defense of the two-time defending champions. Gaye played sparingly in the second half as NU head coach Jamike Jarin opted for a small frontcourt rotation, while Dave Ildefonso was only limited to two points (a career low) on 1/5 field goal shooting. Other players such as Jv Gallego (nine points) and John Llyod Clemente also failed to reach double digits in the scoring department. The drought does not stop there as Enzo Joson, Chino Mosqueda, and Migs Oczon combined for a total of zero points.
- It’s normal for a team to have an off-day on the offensive end, but Jarin will surely be disappointed with the Bulldogs’ effort on defense. They allowed Ateneo to score at least 21 points in every quarter and gave up 21 lay-ups/put-backs/dunks. Despite going small ball almost the entire game, NU were beaten on the break by the bigger Blue Eagles as they only scored nine fastbreak points compared to their opponents’ 23.
- Matt Nieto, the Blue Eagles’ third leading scorer, did not even record a single point in their victory against NU. You’d think that this is a massive negative for both the player and the coaching staff, but this actually shows the incredible depth of the Katipunan-based squad. Baldwin played 14 players and each – except Nieto – at least scored a point for the Blue-and-White. Also, 11 of those 14 players were able to dish out at least an assist in this game. In total, Ateneo gave out 26 assists – the most a team has recorded in Season 82.
- Side note: The Blue Eagles have now recorded 23 straight wins in the UAAP (dating back to the previous campaign) and can clinch an outright Finals berth if they beat the UP Fighting Maroons on Wednesday, October 31, at 4pm, in the Mall of Asia Arena.