|Ateneo's Kiefer Ravena shoots against the defense of National University's Bobby Ray Parks in their UAAP Season 75 second round match-up at the PhilSports Arena Thursday. The Blue Eagles routed the Bulldogs, 70-56. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (3rd UPDATE) The Ateneo de Manila Blue Eagles turned on the jets in the second half to pull away from the National University (NU) Bulldogs, 70-56, and solidified their hold on the top spot of the UAAP Season 75 men’s basketball tournament Thursday at the PhilSports Arena.
The defending champions extended their mastery over the Bulldogs, clamping down on defense in the second half to overhaul a slim 31-33 halftime deficit.
With big man Greg Slaughter leading the way, the Blue Eagles outscored the Bulldogs 39-23 in the final two quarters to turn what looked to be a close game into a rout.
“I’m very happy with our defensive effort in the second half,” said Ateneo head coach Norman Black after the game.
Slaughter finished with 22 points and seven rebounds, and outdueled NU’s Emmanuel Mbe (19 points) down the stretch as Ateneo tallied their 11th victory of Season 75.
With their victory, the Blue Eagles are assured of at least a playoff for a twice-to-beat advantage in the Final Four.
NU, meanwhile, suffered their fifth loss against seven wins, and are now tied with the De La Salle Green Archers for fourth and fifth place in the league standings. Both teams have two remaining games and will figure in a neck-and-neck battle for the last berth in the Final Four.
Hot start for NU
The Eagles routed the Bulldogs despite attempting only two free throws in the game. They tallied a season high 29 turnover points, however, as they took advantage of NU’s 23 miscues.
The Bulldogs actually got off to a better start, with Mbe scoring 11 points in the opening quarter alone. Jeoffrey Javillonar, meanwhile, fired seven points off the bench as NU built a 33-31 halftime lead.
But the Blue Eagles regrouped in the third quarter. Slaughter, Chris Sumalinog and Juami Tiongson all scored from close range as Ateneo grabbed the lead, 37-31.
Ateneo would not relinquish control of the ball game, with Ryan Buenafe, Nico Elorde and Kiefer Ravena all draining three-pointers at the end of the third quarter as the Blue Eagles established a 56-45 lead.
“All the credit goes to the players for following and executing our game plan,” Black said.
Any hopes of an NU comeback was quickly dashed by Slaughter. Isolated on the left block against Mbe, Slaughter made mincemeat of the other center’s defense to score eight points in the final period.
Parks scores season low
To make matters worse for the Bulldogs, reigning Most Valuable Player Bobby Ray Parks had a nightmarish game.
After dropping 32 points against the Green Archers in their previous game, Parks had a season-low 11 points as he struggled against the defense of Ravena and Nico Salva.
Black commended his players for a good performance against Parks, but noted that they “did not go into the game thinking of trying to limit him.”
Parks shot a measly four-of-11 from the field and was one-of-six from beyond the arc. He also committed five turnovers.
The Bulldogs as a team were miserable from the field, making only 36.7% of their field goals, while allowing Ateneo to convert nearly 57% of their attempts.
Ravena and Salva each scored 14 points for the Eagles, who also got a got a remarkable defensive game from reserve forward Sumalinog.
Javillonar finished wih 15 points off the bench for NU.
The Blue Eagles can clinch a twice-to-beat advantage and the number one spot in the UAAP standings with a victory over the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers on Saturday, their last game of the elimination round.
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs face a tough road to the Final Four as they must win their last two games against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons and the Far Eastern University Tamaraws, while at the same time hope that La Salle drops one of its final two contests.
ADMU 70 - Slaughter 22, Salva 14, Ravena 14, Tiongson 6, Elorde 5, Buenafe 3, Sumalinog 2, Golla 2, Chua 2, Pessumal 0, Gonzaga 0
NU 56 - Mbe 19, Javillonar 15, Parks 11, De Guzman 5, Rosario 2, Khobuntin 2, Alolino 2, Villamor 0, Rono 0, Betayene 0
Quarter scoring: 16-17, 31-33, 56-45, 70-56