It wasn't the smoothest way to come away with a W, but there are going to be games when nothing will come easy for the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
Regardless how they pull it off, head coach Tab Baldwin will always be satisfied as long as they end up on top.
"I trust that they give everything they have to our schemes. It isn't always pretty, it isn't always perfect, but I've never been against winning ugly," Baldwin said after Ateneo's 66-52 win over University of Santo Tomas in Season 82 men's basketball on Saturday.
Given their narrow first-round victory over the Growling Tigers and a slow start to the rematch, Baldwin and co. should like this result much better.
They limited Soulemane Chabi Yo to 6 points (2 of 11 from the field) and Rhenz Abando to 7 (2 of 9), after the former averaged a team-high 19 points in the first round and the latter 13 points.
The Tigers' 52 points were 29 fewer than their league-leading average of 81, and the fourth time the Blue Eagles have limited their opponents' scoring in the 50s or lower, a league best.
"All I can say is thank God for our defense," Baldwin said. "That continues to be something to be difficult for our opposition."
Even though they never yielded the lead once it got the upper hand, the defending champions didn't feel comfortable in front.
UST was within 7 points, 57-50, with 2:45 left in the game, before a Thirdy Ravena bucket and a triple by SJ Belangel finally put the Tigers away.
"At any rate, a very, very tough contest from UST," Baldwin said.
"They really make your life miserable when you come out to play."
As Baldwin has preached several times in the tournament, Ateneo needs to get better finding the hoop.
Against UST, the Blue Eagles shot 38.7% from the floor and they were cold off the gates, not making a basket until Matt Nieto's 3-pointer with 4:38 left in the first quarter.
But if they can make their opponents' lives more miserable on offense, Baldwin isn't complaining.
"We want to win," Baldwin said, "and when you put your heart and soul particularly at the defensive end, we can do that."
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