UAAP: For Ateneo, it’s always the next man up

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Ateneo’s strengths lie in its depth and unpredictability, and one didn’t have to look further for proof of that in their dominant win over UST on Saturday at the Filoil Flying V Arena in San Juan.

Raffy Verano, who starred in the team’s victory last Wednesday over UE, was out nursing an ankle sprain, and this might have opened opportunities for Angelo Kouame and other Blue Eagles’ bigs.

Against the Growling Tigers, Kouame was almost perfect from the field with an 8-for-9 clip and finished 20 points (a career-high), 15 rebounds and four blocks.

His solid play certainly grabbed everyone’s attention, but assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga aptly pointed out that it was the system that enabled their 6-foot-11 reinforcement to flourish yesterday.

“I wish we could tell you that we had a game plan wherein he’s gonna score 20 points, but that’s not how we play. We played based on the system. It can be Raffy Verano, he had a lot of points last game. It’s Angelo today. I don’t know next game who it will be. It’s just the way we play,” Arepacochaga said after the game.

14 out of 15 players fielded scored for Ateneo, which cruised to its fourth straight victory after an opening day loss against Adamson. They also tallied 15 assists in total, dwarfing UST’s eight.

“It was a very good team effort on our part because if you noticed, because it’s not one-on-one moves with Angelo. Of course, he had a couple of good moves and we’re happy that he’s improving, but it’s the passes from guards, from Thirdy and from four men that were important for us in getting the scoring opportunities,” Arespacochaga noted.

“My teammates are the best. I really like my teammates, the way we move in the court, the way we share the ball, it makes me open so I say thank you to them,” said Kouame.

Thirdy Ravena added 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two blocks in 18 minutes, while Isaac Go scored eight and grabbed 11 boards off the bench.

The Blue Eagles were dominant right out of the gates and entered halftime with a 37-18 lead.

They even saw their lead grow to 36 late in the fourth quarter, with the game virtually already in the books.

“We always want to say that it’s not the end result [that matters], it’s how we play. That’s what we’ve been stressing. It doesn’t matter ‘yung score, doesn’t matter the time. We always want to be consistent with our effort,” Arespacochaga said.

“Whether it’s a close game or whether we or our opponents have a big lead, it doesn’t matter. We have to give our best every time because we expect also the same from our opponents and that’s something that we’ve been hammering to our players.”

With the win, Ateneo now sits at 4-1 in the standings.

UST, which was led by Henri Subido’s 19 points and CJ Cansino’s 15 points and 10 rebounds, crashed to 1-3.

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