By Frankie Serrano
Ateneo Blue Eagles def. De La Salle Green Archers 81-69
Mike Nieto (18pts, 5rebs, 4ast, 0 TOs, +5)
Medium Mike took a timetravel wormhole and flashed the UAAP Jrs MVP form sans the weight against archrivals De La Salle. All of his points were EFFORTLESS save for that sick fader. Much has been said about his twin, Matt, Thirdy Ravena, and Ange Kouame being the offensive focal point of the Blue Eagles. They tend to forget who anchors the squad when the second unit comes in and that’s where Mike made his kills. He practically went after the smaller guys La Salle put on him at the low block and it was brutal.
Gian Mamuyac (14pts, 4 rebs, 2ast, 2stl, +8)
Mamu was never a scorer. Even back in the juniors. Heck, his best highlights wasn’t him scoring, but blocking Steph Curry. He’s one of Tab Baldwin’s primary defenders. He’s all over the floor shooting gaps, closing out on shooters, or hawking ball handlers. But yesterday, Mamu was freaking killing the Green Archers on one-dribble pull-ups to douse the fire of an end-game run that had Ateneo on its back heels.
Ange Kouame (6pts, 19rebs, 5blks, +16)
Ange grabbed 19 rebounds and swatted five souls away in 24 minutes of play despite playing poorly on the offensive end. He’s still Ateneo’s safety blanket for what can you do with a seven-foot guy whose motor doesn’t know the neutral speed?
Jaime Malonzo (18pts, 10rebs, 5TOs, -16)
Malonzo introduced himself to the UAAP in the noisest way possible: crucifying Thirdy Ravena who went for the chasedown. He is the finest pearl in the trio of one-and-dones and new recruits (Adamson fugitives Tyrus Hill and Kurt Lojera) the Green Archers are parading this year. However as the game went on, while it was clear Malonzo had the green light, everything was not in the flow of the offense. He’s talented yes, but when it comes to the greater contributions, the numbers are empty.
- Ateneo has been terrible offensively, shooting 32.6% from the floor, with only four guys hitting 40% or higher. The looks have been there, it’s just a matter of the shots actually going down. With the slate of games for the opening week, the Blue Eagles probably have the most number of open looks among the teams that play. Once they hit their stride, that three-peat is not even far-fetched.
- For a team seeing its first action, the Green Archers weren’t bad. Talking with head coach (well FU too BCAP) Jermaine Byrd after the game, the team has much to improve on, especially with getting Justine Baltazar and Encho Serrano going. Byrd also promised we’ll be seeing a lot of Encho Serrano this season and I for one am excited since when he was going downhill, Serrano was a sight.
- The in-game adjustment battle between Tab and Byrd was something else. It’s high-end basketball. When DLSU made its run in the third quarter, Byrd utilized a 2-2-1 press just to delay the Blue Eagle offense. As soon as that ball crossed, the Green Archers dropped down to a 1-3- zone which looked like a high 1-4 most of the time, giving the Blue Eagles all the space in the world at the baseline. When Ateneo sued for time, Byrd said he knew Tab had something up so the Green Archers switched to a 2-3 zone, unprepared for the BJ Time to happen.
- Ateneo looked very dominant during that second quarter blitz that saw them erect a 22 point-lead entering the break. However, Tab became Norman Black and went cute for the third quarter and did not have SJ Belangel play second half minutes at all, despite being a +13 when he’s on the floor. However, he has that BJ Time to redeem for us. Also, it’s becoming apparent that Ateneo really won’t kill you with offense but with locktight defense thanks to a huge security blanket in Ange Kouame.