ATENEO was first to break the tape in its duel with University of Santo Tomas but only by an inch as it took a 71-70 win on Wednesday in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament at Smart Araneta Coliseum.
It's still the defense that made the difference for the Blue Eagles, holding the Growling Tigers scoreless in the final 3:40 of the contest, save for Renzo Subido's buzzer-beating trey that cut the spread to just one.
Ange Kouame scored the go-ahead tip-in to put his side up, 68-67, before blocking Soulemane Chabi Yo's jumper in the final 20 seconds. Thirdy Ravena and Matt Nieto put the game under wraps in what was easily the most challenging game the defending champions have had in this three-peat quest.
Ravena led the Blue Eagles with 17 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Kouame posted a double-double of 11 points and 10 boards, with two blocks as they started the season at 3-0.
Gian Mamuyac also continued his stellar showing with 10 points and four rebounds, as Will Navarro got eight points, five rebounds, and five assists in the victory.
"We understood that game was going to be a really tough game. I feel fortunate we won the game. That's the kind of game that you can credit the team as much as you want, talk about character, and all of that, but I think that every applaud you give your team, you give the other. That could have gone either way," testified coach Tab Baldwin.
Chabi Yo had 25 points, 13 rebounds, two assists and two blocks.
Rhenz Abando added nine points and five rebounds, as Mark Nonoy and Subido both had nine points as UST fell to a 2-1 record.
Ateneo 71 - Ravena 17, Kouame 11, Mamuyac 10, Navarro 8, Belangel 6, Maagdenberg 6, Ma. Nieto 5, Go 3, Wong 3, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Daves 0, Tio 0.
UST 70 - Chabi Yo 25, Abando 9, Nonoy 9, Subido 9, Huang 6, Cansino 4, Concepcion 4, Ando 2, Paraiso 2, Bataller 0.
Quarterscores: 23-13; 33-37; 53-56; 71-70.