NU Bulldogs def. FEU Tamaraws 85-79

Who impressed: It feels so inevitable at this point. When the NU Bulldogs win, Dave Ildefonso (27 points, 11 rebounds) is the player who leads the way for them, a testament to just how good he is as a player. We already know what we get from Dave at this point. He’s a blend of his father’s skill and power in the low post as well as the guard skills which he’s worked on ever since he was a kid. It would definitely be nice if he finds a way to play more consistently and get NU to win more games.

What happened: The first three quarters were confusing because cellar-dwellers NU were actually blowing out Final Four contender FEU. This was the same FEU team who beat 2nd seeded UP just a few days ago. Then the game got even more confusing during the fourth quarter when FEU amped up the pressure and forced the game into overtime. However, amping up the pressure could only do so much, as NU’s consistent offensive flow beat out the momentum of the Tamaraws.

What to look forward to: For NU, they said it themselves: they have nothing to lose. With a standing of 2-7, a Final Four berth feels bleak at this point. But NU can’t allow that to put them down. They just need to make the most of whatever they can get out of this season and who knows? Maybe the logjam in the middle of the league gets so bad that they find a way to sneak into the Final Four race.

For FEU, ah. Easily the most polarizing team in the league. One second, they look like they could make it to the Finals, then come the next, they’re the worst UAAP team there is. It’s frustrating to watch, but at the same time, it’s a testament of just how young they are. They should be just fine in the coming years once their young core gets more experience, but a Final Four berth right now would be nice in fast-tracking their growth. 

UST Growling Tigers def. UE Red Warriors 101-73

Who impressed: As dominant as Soulemane Chabi Yo has looked, let’s give some love to Zach Huang (22 points, 6/8 3FG). While he hasn’t had as good of a season as last year in terms of production, he continues to be one of the most effective players for the Growling Tigers. Yet, despite his numbers not being as big as Season 81, he’s made a leap in terms of skill. He’s been playing a 3 in spurts and it’s been well warranted because he’s shown increased ball-handling ability and shooting. That kind of versatility is incredibly valuable for any Aldin Ayo-coached team.

What happened: Utter dominance. The UST Growling Tigers came out as a team on a mission, grabbing control of the game from the very start. They never bothered letting go of the gas pedal, barraging UE with bombs left and right. The Red Warriors really tried to establish control by using Alex Diakhite down low, but it simply wasn’t enough.

What to look forward to: For UST, they have to hope this win is the start of some monumental run for the second seed. While Coach Aldin has said he doesn’t want expectations to be unreasonably high with his team (they are young!), you can’t blame fans with their excitement surrounding the group. This team is legitimately good. A run for the Finals is very realistic.

For UE, this was a tough loss, but they can’t allow it to define themselves too much. After all, they are 3-6, still in the thick in the race for the Final Four. They have two elite players in Rey Suerte and Alex Diakhite. Active consultant Lawrence Chongson just needs to hope the supporting cast is able to provide enough to beat the rest of the field. 

Ateneo Blue Eagles def. Adamson Soaring Falcons 80-74

Who impressed: Thirdy Ravena was stellar once again, but let’s give some love to Matthew Daves (10 points, 4/4 FG, six rebounds). He was an absolute workhorse versus the Soaring Falcons, giving the Blue Eagles the motor, strength, and athleticism they badly needed down low with Ange Kouame saddled with foul trouble. There seems to be one guy who always breaks out in Ateneo’s games and versus Adamson, it was Daves.

What happened: One of the few times it’s felt like Ateneo hasn’t had a “routine” win and that’s always a fun thing for basketball consumers! To be fair, it was close to feeling routine again because Ateneo went out and outscored Adamson 29-13 during the third quarter. That’s been the story of Ateneo’s season; give them the opportunity to adjust and the game’s over. That wasn’t the case this time as even when Ateneo shifted gears, Adamson kept its intensity up and tried their hardest to catch up to the Blue Eagles. But then, catching up versus Ateneo is never an easy task and Adamson fell short once the final buzzer sounded.

What to look forward to: For Ateneo, the road to a sweep continues as they just racked up their ninth straight win. But some holes are starting to pop up, such as Ange’s tendency to get into early foul trouble. That weakness will be tested versus La Salle, as the Green Archers have the bigs to attack Kouame’s defense. Ateneo’s other bigs like Isaac Go, Will Navarro, and Daves, have to be ready if the need arises for them to play heavy minutes.

For Adamson, this was a good loss if there was ever such a thing. For context, the spread had it at Adamson +11.5 (meaning oddsmakers had them losing by around the same number) and they beat the spread by a decent number. They’ve always been a talented team; but execution and maturity has been their issue all season long. They stand at 3-6, but they do still have five games left. Now’s not the time for them to give up. There’s something they can build off of this loss.