ATENEO was as methodical as ever as it casually broke down National University in the second half to take a 96-83 win and remain unscathed in the UAAP Season 80 on Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
The Blue Eagles started to create separation midway through the fourth quarter to slowly take control, 85-73, following a Mike Nieto floater.
The Bulldogs tried to make the game interesting by trimming the lead to just seven, 85-78, following an emphatic fastbreak dunk by Issa Gaye with 2:46 to go, but that proved to be the last of their stand as Thirdy Ravena drained a dagger three pointer from way down to douse cold water on the Ateneo uprising.
The win allowed Ateneo to improve to 6-0 entering its showdown with defending champion and archrival La Salle.
National University on the other hand dropped its third straight defeat to drop to 2-4.
“NU’s a tough team. We played at their pace which is an up and down game, it’s a good thing we executed well offensively but we need to pick up our defense,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
“It’s a good thing in the fourth quarter we picked it up and played better defense. In the fourth, Alejandro was limited to just three points,” he added.
The game wasn’t only about Ateneo’s record remaining intact, it was also a showcase of a new facet in starting big man Chibueze Ikeh’s game.
Not usually known for his offense, Ikeh scored 18, making both of his three pointers, to go along 11 rebounds and two blocked shots to show that it’s not just his La Salle counterpart in Ben Mbala who’s improving from downtown.
Role player Vince Tolentino finished with his best offensive performance in the league with 15 points, highlighting the Blue Eagles’ plethora of offensive weapons.
“We weren’t really surprised with them because of all the shots that they got came from within our offense. They defended us well from downtown so we attacked on the inside,” said Arespacochaga.
The Nieto twins in Matt and Mike added 12 points apiece for the Blue Eagles, who shot 29 for 45 from the two point area.
JJay Alejandro had 24 points but was limited down the stretch after a red hot start.
Enzo Joson scored 14 and made seven assists as Issa Gaye had 14 points and eight rebounds.
Ateneo 96 – Ikeh 18, Tolentino 15, Nieto Ma. 12, Nieto Mi. 12, Verano 9, Ravena 8, Asistio 7, Go 4, Black 4, Mendoza 3, White 2, Mamuyac 1, Mallillin 1, Andrade 0, Tio 0.
NU 83 – Alejandro 24, Joson 14, Gaye 14, Rangel 7, Mosqueda 6, Bartlett 4, Morido 4, Yu 4, Salem 3, Tibayan 3, Aquino 0, Diputado 0, Abatayo 0, Cauilan 0.
Quarterscores: 21-25; 47-43; 71-65; 96-83.