Ateneo's Chris Newsome (C) drives through a crowd of defense of UP. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) The Ateneo Blue Eagles used a late fourth-quarter burst to put away the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons, 86-75, and march to their third straight victory of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
Rookie Arvin Tolentino set a new career-high with 20 points and grabbed eight boards. He had six offensive rebounds, one of which led to a putback basket with a little over a minute left that gave Ateneo an 82-68 lead.
Kiefer Ravena, coming off a career performance against La Salle, struggled against the UP defense for most of the game but still finished with 19 points and drilled a back-breaking three-pointer in the fourth quarter.
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol, a former Fighting Maroon, acknowledged that UP "prepared well."
"They prepared well against us, and defensively against Kiefer, who had to bleed for his points," said Perasol. "Also, I think we were a step slower than they were."
Perasol also admitted that his young players may have "thought that this is gonna be a breeze against UP."
"But in the end, we were able to fight it out against a very determined UP team," said the coach.
The Fighting Maroons stayed within striking distance for most of the first half, with guards Henry Asilum and Kyles Lao trading buckets with Ateneo's Chris Newsome and Nico Elorde.
After a Mikee Reyes jumper made it 38-43 with 40 seconds left in the second period, Tolentino completed an and-1 play to make it 46-38 in favor of Ateneo going into halftime.
Ateneo took their first double-digit lead of the contest after Newsome canned a jumper that made it 48-38, but UP freshman Diego Dario and veteran JR Gallarza sparked a stunning 11-3 run that cut the deficit to only two points, 49-51.
It was Tolentino who broke the drought for Ateneo with a steal and a breakaway lay-up. And then, with sparkplugs Dario and Lao sent to the bench in favor of Asilum and Reyes, the Blue Eagles reeled off 10 straight points. The 12-0 run -- capped by Tolentino's free throws -- gave Ateneo a 66-49 advantage.
The Maroons made a last-ditch effort thanks to Mark Juruena, who kept UP in the game with his heads-up play in the second half. Another veteran, Gallarza, rifled in a three-pointer with 4:47 left to make it just a four-point game, 71-67.
At that point, Ravena took over for Ateneo. He repeatedly drove to the lane to fish for fouls, and then, with a little over two minutes left, he rose up for a three-pointer over UP's Moriah Gingerich to make it 80-68 and take the fight out of the Maroons.
Ravena's triple was followed up by a putback by Tolentino, which capped an 11-1 burst for the Blue Eagles that allowed them to seal the contest in their favor.
"At the onset of our huddle, I really wanted them to feel that the La Salle win we had is the same as the UP win we had," said Perasol. "It's gonna be one mark on our slate."
Ateneo now has a 3-0 record, a complete reversal from their start in Season 76 when they began their campaign with three straight losses.
Aside from Tolentino and Ravena, Newsome was a bright spot for the Blue Eagles, especially in the first half when his timely hits kept the Maroons at bay. He finished with a season-high 18 points to go along with 12 rebounds for his first double-double of the tournament.
Lao came off the bench to score a team-high 16 points for UP, while Gallarza added 10 points. Juruena had nine points, 10 rebounds, six assists and no turnovers for a splendid all-around effort.
UP actually shot better from the field -- 50% compared to Ateneo's 41% -- but they simply could not stop the Blue Eagles in crunch time. Ateneo also made the most of their trips to the free throw line, making 25 of their 29 charities, while UP made five of their nine attempts.
UP sank to a 0-3 record.
ADMU 86 - A. Tolentino 20, K. Ravena 19, Newsome 18, Capacio 9, Elorde 7, Pessumal 5, Babilonia 2, Gotladera 2, Javellosa 2, Lim 2, Apacible 0, T. Ravena 0.
UP 75 - Lao 16, Gallarza 10, Juruena 9, Gingerich 9, Asilum 9, Dario 6, Vito 6, Reyes 5, Moralde 5, Bederi 0.
Quarter-scoring: 23-21, 46-38, 66-54, 86-75