ATENEO and Far Eastern University vie for an all-important victory in one of Saturday’s marquee match-ups in the UAAP seniors basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The four-time defending champion Blue Eagles face off with the Tamaraws at 4 p.m. in a clash showcasing not only a rematch of last year’s Finals, but also a battle for positioning on top of the standings.
In the first game, National University and La Salle seek to end the first round with a win as they square off at 12 noon.
Ateneo, FEU, and UST are actually tied on top of the standings with similar 5-1 win-loss cards, with the winner between the Eagles and the Tamaraws gaining the solo lead.
The Tigers have a game on Sunday against Adamson, with a victory giving them a share of the lead with the winner of the Ateneo-FEU tussle at the end of the first round of the eliminations.
“I’m not really too worried about the end of the first round, it’s more about trying to stay in the top two spots,” said Ateneo coach Norman Black. “We know that UST is right there also, so it’s a big game for us just to stay in the top two spots.”
The Tamaraws have yet to win against Ateneo since the Blue Eagles swept them in the 2010 finals. FEU coach Bert Flores said a victory will be a big boost going to the second round of play.
“Two years na kaming hindi nananalo sa Ateneo. Siguro kung manalo kami, malaking kumpiyansa para sa team ‘yun,” said Flores.
Both teams are coming off a long break due to the constant postponement of games due to bad weather. Ateneo last saw action when it beat University of the East, 68-51, on August 4, while FEU defeated University of the Philippines, 73-70, a day later.
“We struggled a bit because of the rains, but we were able to get good practices this week,” Black said.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are aiming for their third straight victory, while the Green Archers are going for their second consecutive win in the first meeting between the two schools since the finals of the preseason FilOil Cup.
A win by the Bulldogs (4-2) over the Green Archers will push them right back in the race for the top two spots following a roller-coaster start.
La Salle just broke its three-game losing skid with a win over Adamson, 56-52, last Wednesday.
“Their record doesn’t show it, but they have been playing very well,” said NU coach Eric Altamirano. “We can’t overlook La Salle. They are a disciplined team and they have a very good coaching staff.”
La Salle coach Gee Abanilla stressed the importance of finishing the first round with a victory. The Archers currently tote an even 3-3 win-loss slate.
“We don’t want to be left behind,” said Abanilla.
The league is selling separate tickets for Saturday’s doubleheader.