MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Defending champion Ateneo de Manila University had to recover from a double-digit hole to power past Far Eastern University (FEU), 65-55, and keep their perfect slate intact in the UAAP Season 82 men's basketball tournament.
The Blue Eagles fell behind by 11 points at the break, 40-29, and trailed by as much as 13 points early in the third quarter before clamping down on defense to overcome the Tamaraws.
The two-time defending champions held FEU to just 15 points in the second half en route to their 11th consecutive victory of the season.
"Huge credit to coach Olsen Racela and his coaching staff for getting this team extremely well-prepared for that game," said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin.
"We had to make adjustments, which is okay to have to make adjustments," he added. "The guys, they became who we believed we are in the second half."
FEU overhauled an early 7-point deficit in the first quarter and thoroughly outplayed the Blue Eagles in the first half. They forced Ateneo to 16 turnovers that they translated to 18 points. Ateneo also gave up back-to-back three-pointers to Rey Bienes to end the second quarter.
A lay-up LJ Gonzales gave FEU its biggest lead, 42-29, with 8:54 left in the third quarter. It turned out to be the first of only five field goals for the Tams in the second half. Ateneo outscored them, 17-5, the rest of the quarter to enter the payoff period down by just one point, 47-46.
The Blue Eagles surged ahead via a 5-0 run to open the final frame, with buckets by Pat Maagdenberg and Isaac Go giving them a 51-47 advantage. They never trailed again, though back-to-back three-pointers by Ino Comboy allowed FEU to come within two points, 57-55, with still 3:45 to go.
Again, Ateneo leaned on its defense. Ange Kouame rejected a shot by Patrick Tchuente, and off a missed triple by Gonzales, Will Navarro raced to the other end for a lay-up. Thirdy Ravena added a bucket of his own and missed the bonus free throw, but Kouame was there to tip the ball back in for a 63-55 spread with 1:29 left.
The Tams never got on the board again, and they finished the game shooting 32.35%. They were 5-of-22 from the field in the second half, and were outrebounded, 53-34, by the Blue Eagles.
"Defensively, we really locked down," Baldwin said. "We rebounded the ball much better, and players went out in the second half with a purpose that we didn't have in the first half."
Kouame finished with 10 points, 15 rebounds, and 4 blocks, while Ravena had 10 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Maagdenberg went 4-of-4 from the field for 9 points, and helped Ateneo stay within distance in the first half.
Gonzales finished with 12 points, the only player in double-digits for FEU. The Tamaraws dropped to 5-6 for fifth place in the league standings.
ATENEO 65 -- Kouame 10, Ravena 10, Maagdenberg 9, Navarro 8, Wong 8, Belangel 5, Daves 4, Ma. Nieto 4, Mamuyac 3, Go 2, Mi. Nieto 2, Andrade 0, Tio 0.
FEU 55 -- Gonzales 12, Bienes 8, Comboy 8, Tuffin 6, Cani 4, Ebona 4, Stockton 4, Tchuente 4, Torres 3, Alforque 2.
Quarter scoress: 15-18, 29-40, 46-47, 65-55
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