The Ateneo Blue Eagles remain as the only unblemished team in the UAAP Season 82 Men’s Basketball tournament after eking out a razor-close 71-70 win over the University of Sto. Tomas Growling Tigers on Wednesday.
After convincing wins against Adamson and La Salle in their first two outings, the Tab Baldwin-mentored team faced its toughest challenge so far against the erstwhile undefeated Tigers — whose youth-laden roster posed problems for the defending champs throughout the entire match.
Shortly after the intense game, Baldwin — whose coaching resume speaks for itself — had nothing but kind words for his counterpart, UST’s “Master of Mayhem” Aldin Ayo.
“ I thought Aldin (Ayo) did a great job rotating his players, systems-wise. They’re a handful to try and control their systems. And I think if if anything turned the tide of that game at half in the second half, it was probably we fixed some of our rebounding problems. And we had rebounding problems in the first half. Second half I thought, you know, we solve some of those problems and at least got back to about equal in the rebounding,” the Kiwi-American mentor lamented.
Prior to the match, Baldwin had already anticipated a tough challenge against UST’s running game, especially with the impressive play of newcomers Renz Abando and Mark Nonoy. UST’s blistering pace was made even more dangerous by Ayo’s frenetic approach on both ends of the floor, which is why Baldwin admitted that he made special preparations to get his team ready.
“Aldin always has a couple of tactical things up his sleeve you know, but we prepared really well. We prepared very intensively. So we had a good look at his systems. They were very well prepared as well. And there weren’t too many wrinkles,” Baldwin shared.
“I don’t think I really had any for him and that I would talk about anyway and I didn’t see, you know, too many wrinkles from him, which is probably fair enough, you know, early in the season, you want to test out what you’ve got, but I know down the track he’ll have some tricks up his sleeve. And we might.”
Ateneo will return to action against the Far Eastern University Tamaraws on Saturday, while UST will be taking on the National University Bulldogs on Sunday.