Ateneo de Manila University eyes to complete its three-peat bid and a first season sweep as it seeks to finish off University of Santo Tomas (UST) in Game Two of Season 82 University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball finals today at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Coming off a lopsided victory in the best-of-three championship series opener, the unbeaten two-time champion Blue Eagles go for the kill against the Growling Tigers at 4 p.m.
Ateneo did not look like a team that came from a 17-day layoff as it trampled on UST, 91-77, in Game One last Saturday.
Graduating captain Thirdy Ravena exploded with 32 points on an efficient 14-of-18 field goal shooting as he typified the Blue Eagles’ scorching 52% shooting clip that gave them a lead as high as 23 points.
Still, the goal is not lost on veteran tactician Tab Baldwin’s mind as he wants his Katipunan-based cagers to stay focused on winning the game at hand for a third straight title and an 11th overall on top of a 16-0 season sweep.
“It’s good to get the win obviously but we tend not to really see that as a win. We see that as the first half of basketball and we just get a long halftime break. We get to prepare for the second half which is Game Two. A lot to work on,” said the American-Kiwi mentor.
“We just want to play this game on Wednesday really well. Win the game and whatever comes with that, comes with that,” he added.
Ravena is expected to power the Eagles’ attack anew with his scoring average of 25.6 points in five finals games while Ivorian big man Angelo Kouame and sophomore guard SJ Belangel are out to provide additional firepower.
On the other hand, second-year UST coach Aldin Ayo took the blame in their Game One defeat and urged his wards to remain optimistic as they try to force a winner-take-all match and keep their chances of ending a 13-year title drought alive.
“I told the players that we just have to handle this loss the right way. That means going back to our videos and see what our mistakes were. We have to correct them and we have three days to prepare,” said Ayo.
Mark Nonoy turned out to be the bright spot as the Rookie of the Year fired a career-high 26 points and led the Tigers in cutting down a huge deficit early in the game only to fall short in the end.
Nonoy will spearhead the España-based squad’s offense anew along with season MVP Soulemane Chabi Yo, graduating playmaker Renzo Subido and guard Brent Paraiso.