Ateneo Blue Eagles def. NU Bulldogs 71-50
Ange Kouame (15 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 7 blocks)
It was another dominant showing for Kouame as he pretty much did it all for the Blue Eagles. Offensively, he showed great touch and patience around the rim, which is something he usually struggles with. Defensively, what can he not do? He continually bothered and outright swatted NU’s shot attempts at the rim. If that wasn’t enough, he even showed in the fourth quarter that he could keep in step with Dave Ildefonso. Let that sink in for a second.
Gian Mamuyac (13 points, 3 rebounds, 1 steal)
Mamuyac’s offensive game continues to flourish as he hit four of his six attempts, including two from deep. He was even the leading scorer at one point having scored eight in the first period alone. If he can consistently perform with this kind of efficiency day in and day out, then that’s one more dangerous weapon for Ateneo.
Shaun Ildefonso (9 points, 7 rebounds, 1 steal)
Shaun was really the only individual brightspot for the Bulldogs on a day where every single one of them was shut down. Much like Mamuyac, his improved offense this season resulted in a few easy buckets in the paint once Kouame sat on the bench. But it’s clearly not his role to carry this team on his back. He (and Dave) can’t be the only ones picking up the slack.
- To be fair, NU didn’t play THAT badly. They were quick and decisive with the ball, able to get some pretty good looks all around, especially compared to their flat-footed, stagnant offense at times. It’s just that Ateneo is a freaking wall on defense, especially with Kouame manning the paint as he just erased any and every missed rotation by Ateneo and/or good attempt by NU. Case in point, the Bulldogs only shot 28.6% from the two-point area. They were simply shut down with no other options to go to. But hey, at least it wasn’t another heartbreaker?
- Ateneo’s gameplan on Dave Ildefonso was fantastic. After scoring two early points off freethrows in the opening minutes, it turned into a nightmare as he tallied seven turnovers and four fouls the rest of the way. He didn’t score again until the final period when the game was pretty much out of hand. Ateneo just made it hell for him by playing him tight and throwing multiple defenders at him. In the first quarter alone, they threw 3-4 different defenders at him at different points just to make sure he doesn’t get comfortable.
- Ateneo’s poor shooting has been their biggest weakness and NU tried to take advantage of that by going zone immediately on the first possession. The Blue Eagles countered with terrific ball movement, zipping passes around the court, inside and out until they could get a good shot. They still didn’t shoot all that well from deep at just 29.2% but it was how they got those looks that mattered. They didn’t just settle for threes or take one immediately without looking for a better shot.
- Issa Gaye’s play continues to be a concern for the Bulldogs, ending the game with just eight points and six boards, hardly the dominant presence they need inside the paint. He didn’t look all that engaged either. It did feel like NU could’ve involved him a bit more in the offense, maybe in pick and roll action just to move Kouame a bit instead of going straight at him. Defensively, he was a non-factor. If they’re going to get into the win column, Gaye will be an important piece to that puzzle.
- One other concern for Ateneo is going to their all-bench lineup. NU made a run as soon as Kouame went to the bench, the paint suddenly wide open for them to score. It didn’t help that the Blue Eagles couldn’t organize their attack on the other end as well. The solution might be as simple as making sure at least one of Kouame, Thirdy Ravena or Matt Nieto is on the floor at all times. That or have Isaac Go get out of whatever five-game slump he’s in.