NATIONAL University sent Ateneo's hot-starting Blue Eagles crashing back to earth with a 64-60 victory on Saturday in the UAAP Season 77 men’s basketball tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Troy Rosario scored 16 points to lead the Bulldogs, who won for the second time in three games to atone for their two-point loss to the defending champion De La Salle Green Archers on Wednesday.
Second stringers Rev Diputado and Nico Javelona also came up with big plays in the endgame as the unheralded guards helped build a five-point lead for the Bulldogs late in the fourth quarter.
NU coach Eric Altamirano said the win over the Blue Eagles is proof that the Bulldogs have forged a new identity since the departure of two-time league MVP Bobby Ray Parks.
“Tulad ng sabi ko, ‘yung identity ng team is relying on not only one person but really a collective effort. And pinakita nila ngayon, especially the bench players,” Altamirano said.
The Blue Eagles suffered their first loss after three straight victories to open the season.
Diputado and Javelona’s free throws overturned a 57-56 deficit while Alfred Aroga’s split from the line with 28.5 seconds left put the Bulldogs ahead, 62-56.
Diputado, a rookie out of San Beda, scored 10 points, while Aroga had nine points and 11 rebounds. Glenn Khobuntin grabbed a team-high 16 rebounds.
Rookie Arvin Tolentino had 17 points while Kiefer Ravena added 13 points but shot 3-of-20 from the field for the Blue Eagles.
NU (64) – Rosario 16, Diputado 10, Aroga 9, Khobuntin 8, Alolino 6, Javelona 5, Betayene 4, Atangan 2, Celda 2, Alejandro 1, Neypes 0.
Ateneo (60) – A. Tolentino 17, K. Ravena 13, Gotladera 7, Pessumal 7, Elorde 6, Newsome 6, Porter 2, Lim 2, Capacio 0, Babilonia 0.
Quarters: 15-15, 33-31, 49-43, 64-60.