BOBBY Ray Parks had 22 points as National University built an early lead and then kept defending champion Ateneo at bay in a rousing 64-54 win Sunday in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Emmanuel Mbe added 14 points and 15 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who managed to survive a late charge by the Blue Eagles from as much as a 24-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs capitalized on the limited playing time of Ateneo star Kiefer Ravena, who was sparingly used owing to a right ankle sprain. The former Rookie of the Year sat the entire second half and finished the game with only two points.
Cameroonian center Alfred Aroga also missed the game for the Bulldogs as the school awaits for the completion of his eligibility papers.
NU coach Eric Altamirano lauded the team’s effort but rued Ateneo’s huge fourth quarter comeback.
“We didn’t end on a high note,” Altamirano said. “I felt that we controlled the game in the first three quarters. Somehow, our defense relaxed and we allowed them to get their bearings with their outside shots.”
In the end, the Bulldogs’ 35-22 scoring binge in the middle quarters proved to be the difference maker.
Denice Villamor wrapped up the second quarter with a buzzer-beating deuce for a 33-21 halftime lead. The Bulldogs started the third with a 7-0 run to stretch the lead to 19 points.
NU then went on a 9-3 blast to welcome the fourth period, giving the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the game at 59-35.
But the reigning champions refused to go away as Juami Tiongson and Nico Elorde buried triples to cut the deficit to 10. But Parks hit a three-pointer of his own from the right wing to make it 64-51 for the Bulldogs with 1:41 left in the game.
Tiongson had 13 points while Elorde and Ryan Buenafe added 10 markers for Ateneo.
But Ravena’s absence was obviously felt by the team as the King Eagle struggled from the floor on 1-of-6 shooting.
Even though they began connecting from three-point range in the fourth, the Blue Eagles ended up with a 7-of-33 clip from beyond the arc. The team was also outrebounded, 39-52, in its first UAAP game without big men Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva.
It was the Bulldogs’ first win over the Blue Eagles since the second round of the 2007 season.
NU (64) – Parks 22, Mbe 14, Villamor 13, Javillonar 5, Alolino 4, Rosario 2, Khobuntin 2, Alejandro 2, Rono 0, De Guzman 0.
Ateneo (54) – Tiongson 13, Elorde 10, Buenafe 10, Newsome 9, Erram 4, Ravena 2, Pessumal 2, Golla 2, Capacio 2, Tolentino 0, Babilonia 0.
Quarterscores: 15-10; 33-21; 50-32; 64-54.