ATENEO coach Norman Black was the least surprised with the rugged plays dished off by Far Eastern University in their UAAP men’s basketball game on Wednesday that was a rematch of last year’s Finals.
“They tried to take us out of our game and they weren’t able to do it,” said Black after the Blue Eagles defeated the Tamaraws, 77-64, at the Mall of Asia Arena. “That’s part of our make-up, we want to sustain and basically take whatever the team gives us and give it back.”
Although a bit jolted, the four-time defending champions were able to survive the rugged antics of the Tamaraws.
FEU’s Arvie Bringas was ejected from the game for spitting on Justin Chua in the fourth period. He was later banned for one game by the league.
Earlier, Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe and FEU’s Mark Belo were also thrown out. The Ateneo forward was ejected for a fighting stance, while Belo was tossed out after being slapped with his second technical foul during the scuffle.
Nico Salva turned to Twitter to describe how physical the match was.
“Punched 4x in the 1st qrtr scrathed and pinched multiple times...unbelievable! Let’s just play ball,” Salva wrote on his account @nickobesalva.
Big man Greg Slaughter did the same, as he tweeted on his account @GWillSlaughter, “Heart and skill>dirty and cheap.”
Emotions also ran high after the game as Salva and FEU assistant coach Ronald Magtulis had to be separated after a heated exchange of words.
Due to the physical nature of the game, FEU was booed by the Ateneo crowd while the school’s hymn was being played despite efforts by school officials to pacify their supporters.
Ateneo athletic director Ricky Palou likewise couldn’t contain his emotions and said some harsh words directed at FEU.
“Cheap shots and dirty plays, that’s how FEU plays and that reflects on their coaching staff,” he said.
Apparently, apart from Magtulis and Salva, the FEU assistant coach also had a spat with Ateneo counterpart Sandy Arespacochaga at midcourt as both sides shook hands after the game.
“Huwag mong duduruin ang mga players ko,” Magtulis told Arespacochaga as recalled by Palou.
But Magtulis, the former King Tamaraw and Ginebra San Miguel player, countered that he was just answering the accusations made by Salva, who reportedly was the one who sparked the heated exchange.
“Sabi kasi ni (Nico) Salva, huwag ko daw turuan maglaro ng madumi `yung mga players ko,” said Magtulis. “Tinuturuan ko daw kasi maglaro ng madumi.
“Nakialam siya (Salva). Player siya, di siya dapat nakialam dun. Sa amin na coaches lang yun.”
But being the champions and the team to beat as they gun for a fifth straight title, Black is aware that it was but natural for their opponents to play them physical.
“If you look at all our games, that’s how the teams are playing us. It’s just part of the game. If you remember the last game (against University of the Philippines), it was very similar, but it wasn’t out of control like in this game,” Black said.
With reports from Mei-Lin Lozada