MANILA, Philippines — Defending champion Ateneo exploded in the fourth quarter, sending the winless University of Santo Tomas to its 19th straight loss with a 97-77 rout in the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament on Wednesday at Mall of Asia Arena.
After a stinging loss to Far Eastern University in overtime last Saturday, Ateneo came out firing with Chris Koon leading the balanced attack with 21 points, six rebounds, and five assists. Joseph Obasa chipped in 17 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks, while Kai Ballungay also scored 17 points and seven rebounds.
Mason Amos, who missed all his three shots from the field and was limited to just two points in their 66-61 loss to the Tamaraws, bounced back with 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting to help the Blue Eagles improve 3-3 ahead of their Finals rematch against the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons on Sunday.
“We don’t wanna look too far ahead with the UP game, we wanna focus on UST but, it’s definitely a good win to give us momentum for this next game. It’s gonna be a good challenge for us. We didn’t wanna go two and four,” said Koon after their bounce-back win. “Of course, so this is a big win for us. I’m glad that a lot of the guys that weren’t able to play got in there. Just a big momentum boost for our upcoming game against UP, our biggest challenge yet.”
The Growling Tigers put up a gallant stand to start the second half as Angelo Crisostomo slashed inside to cut down the Blue Eagles’ lead to four, 62-58, with 2:47 left in the third.
But the Blue Eagles made a living at the free throw line, ending the third with 14 attempts capped by Koon’s perfect trip from the line for a 72-61 advantage heading into the fourth. UST only had three tries at the line.
Ateneo carried its momentum into the final frame with a 17-3 run capped by Josh Lazaro’s layup with 8:27 to play. Amos delivered a dunk and a big three to extend the margin to 21, 94-73, with 1:32 to go.
“Just briefly, I thought both ends of the floor, we gave more or less a good performance, shot over 50% from the field, held a tough UST team. I know their record doesn’t flatter them, but all the teams that played against them know how tough they are. We held them to 40%,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin. “Still too many turnovers on our part and I think we need to do a better job on the offensive boards, but generally speaking, it was a good game on both ends of the floor for us. I think we need that kind of performance, especially going into the UP game, and we’re happy. It’s going to be a very, very happy dugout today.”
UST remained winless in five games and suffered its 19th straight loss — the program’s longest losing streak in the league including its 1-13 finish last year.
Nic Cabañero carried the Tigers with 21 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. Christian Manaytay contributed 17 points and seven rebounds, while Migs Pangilinan added 11 points
Ateneo (97) – Koon 21, Ballungay 17, Obasa 17, Amos 15, Espinosa 6, Chiu 6, Gomez 5, Brown 3, Celis 3, Lazaro 2, Credo 2, Quitevis 0, Bongo 0, Tuano 0, Nieto 0, Gamber 0.
UST (77) – Cabañero 21, Manaytay 17, Pangilinan 11, Crisostomo 8, Duremdes 7, Laure 5, Manalang 5, Calum 3, Moore 0, Lazarte 0, Llemit 0, Gesalem 0.
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Quarterscores: 17-10, 40-33, 72-61, 97-77