DEFENDING champion Ateneo hardly looked like it missed a beat, fending off University of the Philippines, 90-81, to start its run in the UAAP Season 84 men's basketball tournament Saturday at Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo vs UP recap
SJ Belangel delivered the key hits to help the Blue Eagles deny the Fighting Maroons' fightback from 21 points down as the latter cut the lead down to just seven, 85-78, connecting with big jumpers within the last three minutes to secure the opening day win.
Ateneo also stretched its win streak to 27 straight games in the process as it has not tasted any defeat since Oct. 11, 2018 against Far Eastern University -- curiously the Blue Eagles' next foe on Tuesday.
Dave Ildefonso starred in his Katipunan return with 19 points, six rebounds, one assist, and one steal, while Raffy Verano got 18 points, five boards, two dimes and one steal.
Naturalized center Ange Kouame nabbed a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, as Belangel finished with 10 points, seven rebounds, and five assists to kickstart the Blue Eagles' campaign for a four-peat.
"Obviously we're delighted to get a win in that game. We went into it not knowing how well perform and how well UP will perform, so we're delighted with the win," said coach Tab Baldwin.
CJ Cansino willed the Fighting Maroons from that enormous hole with his 21 points, five rebounds and three steals but his Diliman debut ended in a sour note.
Malick Diouf also got 15 points, nine boards, and two blocks, as Carl Tamayo had 13 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
ATENEO 90 -- Ildefonso 19, Verano 18, Kouame 11, Belangel 10, Mamuyac 9, Mendoza 6, Tio 5, Chiu 4, Daves 4, Koon 2, Lazaro 2, Andrade 0, Mallillin 0, Gomez 0.
UP 81 -- Cansino 21, Diouf 15, Tamayo 13, Rivero 11, Fortea 4, Cagulangan 4, Spencer 4, Lucero 2, Catapusan 2, Abadiano 2, Webb 2, Alarcon 0.
Quarters: 26-18, 46-35, 71-54, 90-81.