MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Ateneo Blue Eagles continued their mastery over budding rivals, the Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraws, winning 77-64 in their second-round meeting in the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Wednesday at the SM Mall of Asia Arena.
In a physical encounter that saw three players thrown out of the game, the Blue Eagles waxed hot from the field in the second half to buck a slim halftime deficit and post their eighth straight victory over the Tamaraws dating back to the UAAP Season 73 Finals.
"FEU is a very physical team," Ateneo head coach Norman Black said. "They are very aggressive. You just have to deal with them."
"We played much better today. I'm very happy with this win. They tried to take us out of our game, but they weren't able to do it," he added.
Ateneo got off to a hot start, leading 11-0 early even as they were dealt with hard fouls, including an unsportsmanlike foul called on FEU's Arvie Bringas,
But the game took its first ugly turn when Ateneo’s Ryan Buenafe committed an unsportsmanlike foul on Anthony Hargrove. Hargrove's teammate, Mark Belo, went up to Buenafe and both players assumed "fighting stances."
Both Buenafe and Belo were assessed technical fouls and were thrown out of the game.
The incident seemed to have fired up the Tamaraws, as they slowly chipped away at the Blue Eagles’ lead before taking the lead on a three-pointer from Russell Escoto early in the second period.
But the Blue Eagles suddenly waxed hot from the field in the second quarter, with Kiefer Ravena and Juami Tiongson sinking three three-pointers in the period. Their defense also tightened, holding down the Tamaraws to only nine points in the quarter.
Another three-pointer from Tiongson gave the Blue Eagles a double-digit lead, 60-48, midway through the fourth, but afterwards, the game took another ugly turn.
|FEU's Arvie Bringas is shown spitting towards the Ateneo bench.
Bringas was caught spitting towards the Ateneo bench and was assessed another unsportsmanlike foul. He was thrown out of the game and will reportedly be suspended for the Tamaraws' next game against the National University Bulldogs.
Bringas' action was costly for FEU as Salva made the two freethrows and Tiongson drained his last three-pointer of the game to put Ateneo ahead 65-48.
"We're not gonna back down against anybody," Black said. "We have shown that in the past six years."
"Even in the last game, it was very physical. It did not get out of control like it did today but it was very physical," he added.
Tiongson finished with 16 points, making four of his six attempts from beyond the arc. Ravena had 12 points and six rebounds.
With both Greg Slaughter and Nico Salva struggling to deal with the Tamaraws' physicality early in the game, it was JP Erram who once again provided a spark for the Eagles. The reserve center came off the bench and scored eight points while playing strong defense.
FEU's Terrence Romeo scored 13 points, but he struggled from the field once again. His backcourt mate, RR Garcia, finished the game strong with nine points in the final quarter, but it was too little, too late for the Tamaraws.
Ateneo's record improved to 8-1, tightening their grip on the top spot of the UAAP standings. Meanwhile, the Tamaraws dropped to 7-3, still tied with the UST Growling Tigers.