MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles will try to bounce back from their second loss of the season against a revenge-minded University of the East (UE) squad in their second round encounter of the UAAP Season 77 tournament Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Ateneo ended the first round of the tournament as the No. 1 team but the Blue Eagles were shot down by archrivals De La Salle last Sunday, and they now share the top spot with the Green Archers and the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws.
"Even with us playing that way, the game could have gone either way pa rin in the end," said Ateneo guard Kiefer Ravena of their game against La Salle. "Pero napunta sa kanila 'yun, and we just have to focus on UE now."
The Red Warriors snapped a four-game losing streak by beating the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Tigers in their last game of the first round, then opened the second round by routing the University of the Philippines (UP) Fighting Maroons.
They are also out for revenge, having lost to Ateneo, 93-91, in their first-round encounter in overtime – a game that they led by 21 points in the first half.
"We have a tough task ahead (against Ateneo)," said UE head coach Derrick Pumaren. "We just have to come out and compete. They're a young team, but they play hard. That's what we did last game – we competed, we played hard, but we just fell short."
"We just have to do the same thing. We cannot be intimidated. They're a top team, and we're number five right now, so we should be the aggressor. That's the mentality of the team right now," he added.
UE will be at full strength on Wednesday after resting point guard Roi Sumang in their game against UP last Saturday.
"He will be ready for the next game," Pumaren said of Sumang.
Sumang, for his part, said he wanted to play against UP but was advised to rest in order to be at 100% for his rematch against Kiefer Ravena on Wednesday. The two stars engaged in a shootout in their first round encounter, with Sumang scoring 30 points in a losing effort, while Ravena finished with 38 points and the win.
"Siguro sana maging ganoon ulit 'yung game, pero mas better kung manalo naman kami," Sumang said.
Ateneo coach Bo Perasol, meanwhile, wants his team to address the slow starts that have plagued them in their recent games, as he believes they cannot afford to have another poor opening against the Red Warriors.
"We had a bad start against UE (in the first round), and we're going to review that," said Perasol. "It's going to be critical for us. We need to have a good start against UE, and we need to sustain that as well."
Another victory over UE will temporarily give Ateneo solo first place in the league standings, while dealing the Red Warriors a blow in their Final Four campaign.
Game time is at 4 p.m.
In the first game of the double-header, the National University (NU) Bulldogs will also try to recover from a loss against the still-winless Adamson University Falcons.
NU lost in overtime to FEU in their most recent game, putting them at No. 4 in the team standings.
"We have to remain focused," NU coach Eric Altamirano said. "There will be a lot of games in the second round, and we're still within our target, within our goal. Importante lang that we remain focused and move forward, forget about this game and focus on our next games."
Adamson, meanwhile, is coming off a 61-59 loss to UST that put them at 0-8 so far this season.
Game time is at 2 p.m.