ATENEO boosted its bid for a twice-to-beat advantage in the semifinals with a 74-64 victory over also-ran University of Sto. Tomas on Saturday in the UAAP Season 79 basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Blue Eagles moved to second place with their ninth win in 13 games as the FEU Tamaraws slipped to third when it bowed to semifinals top seed La Salle Green Archers.
The Tigers ended their stint with 11 losses in 14 games, their worst record since the Final Four format was introduced in 1994.
Still, Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin was not satisfied with the Blue Eagles’ play.
"I'm a little disappointed. I'm happy to win the game, happy that our second round looks good on paper, but it's not an efficient game. For us, we want our game to be more characterized by better defense," said Baldwin.
Ateneo pulled away only in the final minutes thanks in large part to Mike Nieto's timely baskets including a quick three-pointer in the right corner that gave the Blue Eagles a 65-59 lead.
Nieto hit a pair of free throws for a 73-63 lead with 1:52 left.
"Credit to UST, because they wanted a good fight and they did. We're happy to get the win, but I think we need to play better basketball than today and I think the boys know that," Baldwin said.
Isaac Go led Ateneo with 15 points and four rebounds, Nieto scored 13 and Manuel Tolentino added 11 points.
Louie Vigil tried to lead Tigers in his final collegiate game but he fouled out with 1:52 after being whistled for an unsportsmanlike foul on a streaking Nieto in transition.
Vigil had 14 markers.
Ateneo 74 – Go 15, Nieto Mi 13, Tolentino 11, Asistio 6, Wong 5, ikeh 5, Black 5, Verano 5, Mendoza 4, Ravena 3, Nieto Ma 2, Ildefonso 0, Porter 0
UST 64 – Vigil 14, Lee 9, Sheriff 9, Faundo 8, Macasaet 8, De Guzman 8, Subido 3, Lao 3, Afoakwah 2, Huang 0, Caunan 0, Basibas 0, Arana 0
Quarterscores: 16-15; 38-36; 58-53; 74-64.