Ateneo Blue Eagles def NU Bulldogs 72-46
Thirdy Ravena, ADMU (13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals)
Three games in for the Blue Eagles and I am running out of words to describe the Blue Eagle star. While there are still flaws in his game, the right things that Thirdy does, he does extremely well. He is back to scoring within the system as well as creating opportunities for his teammates. While he has produced quite the highlight reel this season (he has dunked on all of the Blue Eagles’ opponents thus far), his new role as a defensive stopper is more noteworthy. Ravena shackled Dave Ildefonso all game long to the tune of four points, four rebounds, and two turnovers. Will coach Tab Baldwin continue to sic this beast on the league’s best players?
Ange Kouame, ADMU (5 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks)
Ange Kouame’s offense may be inconsistent as of the moment, but this game has his fingerprints all over it. His instinct and rim protection is truly something else. Against Issa Gaye, the Ivorian student-athlete was in control, keeping a clean sheet as well as blocking Gaye twice. He positions himself under the basket better than he did on his first outing against Adamson, and is getting better in rebounding. Kouame does not only use his height, but his basketball IQ to gain advantage in offense and defense. Once he has fully understood the system, expect him to post better numbers.
Enzo Joson, NU (11 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists)
He was the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs all game long. Despite not being a natural PG, Enzo has worked on embracing the role and his efforts are slowly paying dividends. He was fearless in breaking down the interior defense of Ateneo, opting to drive instead of chucking long range bombs. If there is one gripe about his game against Ateneo, that would be his free throw shooting. Joson shot a measly 1/5 from the free throw line, good for only 20%. Coach Jamike Jarin still trusts his ward after a costly turnover against DLSU, and for good reason.
- This game is a testament to the saying “There is no such thing as an off-day on defense”. The Blue Eagles always had a man in front of the Bulldog shooters, contesting literally every shot at the half (0 uncontested FGs for NU). The Bulldogs ended up with two uncontested field goals at the end of the game. Ateneo has limited NU to shooting an 18/65 clip (27.69 FG%) all game long, with a horrendous 1/16 shooting from beyond the arc. While the offense will not make you jump out of your seat, the defense of the Blue Eagles screams out STATEMENT GAME.
- Do not count Dave Ildefonso out just yet. He is NU’s best offensive option (by far), playing beyond his age against UST and DLSU. Unfortunately for him, Tab Baldwin made an adjustment to the defense in order to shut him down. Instead of Anton Asistio picking him up, it was Thirdy Ravena doing the defending against the younger Ildefonso. This means that Coach Tab and the rest of the Blue Eagles respect his game so much to send a two-time Mythical Five member and MVP runner-up to go against you. Tab Baldwin’s controversial quote at the end of the game means one thing: Dave is a top-name recruit and since he is key to NU’s victory, he needs to be locked down. He’s young, but given his experience and championship pedigree, he will make it big in the years to come. The kid’s talented enough to take defensive stoppers as a challenge and rise above it.
- SJ Belangel showed why he was a highly-touted recruit in the fourth quarter. After having a less than stellar debut against Adamson and a forgettable stint against UP, he was given twelve minutes against NU that did wonders for his confidence. When he took his two free throws, it was evident that nerves still got the best of him, muffing both shots. Once he canned his first career three from dead center, he finally settled in nicely. He is a pure point guard, barking out instructions to his teammates (who are all older than him by the way) comfortably and even without the ball. Although his ball handling is shaky when facing double teams, a renewed self-confidence will do wonders. As long as he does what is required of him in practice (and coach Tab says he does), expect him to be handed the keys to the offense once Matt Nieto graduates.