UNIVERSITY of the Philippines braces for an even tougher match just days after a heart-stopping win as the Maroons take on the Ateneo Blue Eagles on Wednesday in the UAAP Season 80 seniors basketball tournament.
Maroons coach Bo Perasol considers Ateneo to be on the same level as defending champion La Salle and says UP is facing a huge task starting at 4 p.m. at the Araneta Coliseum.
"They were so formidable," said Perasol after seeing Ateneo rout Adamson, 85-65, on Saturday.
"I really think that La Salle is going to be way ahead of the pack. But when I saw Ateneo, I think they are going head-to-head, Ateneo and La Salle."
UP pulled off a 74-73 win over University of Sto. Tomas behind Paul Desiderio’s heroics.
Desiderio converted a triple with 1.1 seconds left to give UP the nail-biting win on opening day, but he says it will take more than clutch baskets to defeat the Blue Eagles.
"Sana matsambahan," said Desiderio. "Malay mo, may offday sila."
Thirdy Ravena made his usual numbers but Chibueze Ikeh was a big revelation on opening day, finishing with 18 points and 17 rebounds in dominating the shaded lane.
Perasol said he texted Ikeh congratulating him for his fine play, but those pleasantries are limited off the court as the Maroons are determined to pull off an upset over the Blue Eagles.
"We are going to make sure that anything in our power, we will give it to them," said Perasol.
University of the East battles Far Eastern University in the 2 p.m. match, with both teams looking to bounce back from defeats in their opening games.
UE lost to National University, 86-69, while FEU bowed to La Salle, 95-90.
Alvin Pasaol hopes to avoid foul trouble this time as the Red Warriors try to make it to the win column.
With Pasaol absent, the Bulldogs took over in the third with Dave Yu leading the way.
"We didn't play as a team offensively and defensively," said Pumaren. "We played the game in spurts. Hopefully, we will be able to correct this when we play FEU."
FEU, meanwhile, trailed by as many as 23 points against La Salle but was able to slice the gap to five at the end of the game thanks to the play of Ron Dennison, who had 21 points in a show of offensive brilliance from the defensive specialist.