After dropping their first assignment in the UAAP Season 81 men’s basketball tournament, Ateneo appropriately responded with flair.
Tipped against a pretty stacked UP team, the Blue Eagles handily edged their Katipunan neighbors, 87-79, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Wednesday.
For head coach Tab Baldwin, there was only one difference from their first game and from their win today: the team’s identity.
“The biggest takeaway from the first game was we abandoned who we were. And I think Adamson had a lot do with it. So we have to learn to stick to who we are, irrespective of the pressure because we’re gonna get pressure from everywhere,” Baldwin told members of the media after the game.
It did seem like Ateneo was rattled and caught off guard in their season opener against the Soaring Falcons. They shot just 28.1 percent from the field and tallied only eight assists as a team.
Against UP, Baldwin’s boys flipped the script by improving on offense (41.2 percent from the field) and by moving the ball better (16 assists).
The head coach couldn’t be any more pleased.
“We’re realizing the truth of it, and I don’t wanna feed the other teams, but we’ve said it’s gonna be a fight every time out. We’re gonna get everybody’s best. I’m happy with the fight that we had inside of us today. That was more evident than the game against Adamson,” Baldwin opened.
“Whether that was the wake-up call from Adamson or whether it was the realization that the UAAP is a different animal than what we’ve been seeing through most of the summer and most of the offseason, I guess it doesn’t really matter. I thought our intensity today was a better reflection of the team that we wanna be.”
The Blue Eagles drew better contributions from its players, too. Thirdy Ravena (17 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, one block) and Anton Asistio (16 points, 4-for-5 from downtown) aptly bounced back, Angelo Kouame also held his own against Bright Akhuetie by posting 14 points, nine boards and five blocks, and Matt Nieto scored in double figures for the second straight game by putting up 12.
“May target talaga kami sa likod namin. Pero kailangan ready kami doon to face the challenge every single game. It’s nice to finally get the ball moving around, lalo na from last game. Better ball rotation for us. It’s nice to see everyone sharing the ball,” Thirdy Ravena observed.
Ateneo will face FEU in their next match on Saturday, September 15, at the Araneta Coliseum.
ATENEO (87) – Ravena 17, Asistio 16, Kouame 14, Nieto Matt 12, Nieto Mike 7, Wong 5, Go 5, Mendoza 5, Verano 4, Black 2, Navarro 0, Belangel 0.
UP (79) – Gomez de Liano Juan 29, Desiderio 15, Manzo 9, Akhuetie 8, Gomez de Liano Javi 5, Murrell 4, Dario 3, Gozum 2, Prado 2, Vito 2, Jaboneta 0, Lim 0, Tungcab 0, Spencer 0.