ATENEO moved one win away from a rare sweep of the elimination round following a 96-82 win over a gritty University of the Philippines side on Wednesday afternoon at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles held the Maroons scoreless in the last three minutes while scoring the final 10 points of the match to run their unbeaten slate to 13 in the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball tournament.
Ateneo will now go for the sweep of the eliminations - and an outright berth in the finals - when it takes on archrival La Salle on Sunday, also at the Big Dome.
Matt Nieto had 19 points while Isaac Go had 13 points for the Blue Eagles. They combined for 14 points in the fourth period to overcome a UP team that once led by as much as 12 points.
“Certainly, a lot of fight from UP in this game. They showed their heart and came up with a lot of intensity. We are happy with this win and we are happy that the character of the players certainly showed,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
The loss was UP's eighth in 13 matches, tying National University for fifth place. The Maroons and the Bulldogs clash on Saturday, with the winner needing a loss by Far Eastern University against Adamson on the same day to stay in contention for a Final Four berth.
The game was tied at 79-all halfway through the fourth quarter before Ateneo finished off State U with a 15-3 burst.
Juan Gomez de Liano had 21 points, while Paul Desiderio tallied 16 points for the Maroons, who had to play most of the fourth without Jun Manzo and Ibra Ouattara after both fouled out.
UP put up a gallant stand, nursing a 60-50 lead in the third period before Ateneo had a rousing finish to the quarter to pull to within one point, 64-63.
Ateneo led by 11, 79-68, only for Gomez de Liano to lead an 11-0 blast to tie it up.
The Blue Eagles, however, showed poise in the endgame with Nieto knocking down a big triple for an 86-81 count with 2:55 remaining in the fourth.
Ateneo 96 – Ma. Nieto 19, Go 13, Mamuyac 13, Ravena 10, Tolentino 10, Mi. Nieto 9, Verano 8, Ikeh 6, Asistio 4, Mendoza 4, Tio 0, Black 0.
UP 82 – Ju. Gomez de Liano 21, Desiderio 16, Manzo 13, Dario 8, Ja. Gomez de Liano 7, Lim 4, Ouattara 3, Jaboneta 3, Webb 2, Romero 2, Lao 2, Prado 1, Vito 0, Ricafort 0, Harris 0.
Quarters: 22-23, 42-48, 63-64, 96-82.