MANILA – Ateneo looks to bounce back from its third loss of the season when they take on the University of Santo Tomas in the second round of the UAAP Season 77 men's basketball tournament Saturday at the Araneta Coliseum.
Ateneo is coming off a loss to National University, which sent them from a share of first place to a share of second to fourth places along with the Bulldogs and defending champions La Salle.
Against National U, Ateneo got off to a poor start, made a brief run early in the fourth quarter, but ultimately fell short and lost 66-76. They have now lost to NU twice this season.
"We dug a hole too deep for us to climb out this time," admitted Ateneo coach Bo Perasol after the game.
They will try to get back on the winning track against UST, which is coming off a 77-65 victory over the University of the Philippines in their most recent game.
UST, however, may be short-handed against Ateneo, as swingman Kevin Ferrer still has a glove on his fractured left hand and it is unsure if he can suit up against the Blue Eagles. Guard Ed Daquioag did not play against UP due to a sprained left ankle but may play this Saturday.
Ateneo star Kevin Ravena is not taking anything for granted, however, saying: "We have to focus on how to start out strong against UST. We never know if Kevin will play or not… Kailangan talaga namin manalo."
The Blue Eagles beat the Growling Tigers in their first game of the season after Ravena memorably hit a game-winner in the final three seconds to lift his team to a 63-61 victory.
UST has been highly inconsistent all season long, with all but one of their five wins coming against non-Final Four wins.
This is not a source of consolation for Perasol, Ravena and the rest of the Blue Eagles, however.
"It's not that these teams are automatic wins," Perasol pointed out. "We would be happy if it would, but we still have to play them. We still have to exert effort, because these teams would really want to get a win against us."
"With how teams are going to play, 'yung mga sub-.500 teams na 'yun ay gusto umangat sa .500 naman, or at least make a final push for the three and four positions," said Ravena.
Game time is at 4:00 p.m.
In the first game of the double-header, the league-leading FEU Tamaraws will try to solidify their hold on the top spot against the UP Fighting Maroons.
The Tamaraws will be playing without head coach Nash Racela, who is in Spain to fulfill his duties with the Gilas Pilipinas national team.
FEU, gunning for its ninth win of the season, looks to move closer to clinching a Final Four spot, while UP is still trying to earn its second win.
Game time is at 2:00 p.m.