|UP's Gelo Montecastro drives against the defense of Ateneo's Nico Elorde in their first round encounter of the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament Thursday at the Araneta Coliseum. Ateneo won, 76-70. Photo by ABS-CBNnews.com.
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) -- After a lackluster start, the Ateneo Blue Eagles came alive in the second half to rally past the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons, 76-70, in the UAAP Season 75 men's basketball tournament at the Araneta Coliseum Thursday.
Nico Salva scored 21 points, while Greg Slaughter (13 points) and Kiefer Ravena (11 points) also finished in double-digits to lead the Blue Eagles.
“I wasn’t surprised. They are a good team, too,” said Ateneo head coach Norman Black, adding that they expected a strong fight from UP.
But Salva admitted that they were surprised by the Maroons’ energy to start the game.
“We were able to adjust in the second half and we were able to execute well,” he said.
The Maroons were in control of the game for most of the first half, even leading by nine points, 40-39, late in the second quarter.
But the Blue Eagles exploded for 29 points in the third period to take control of the contest.
The Maroons took their biggest lead of the game on an Alvin Padilla lay-up to make it 42-32, but it was a close fight the rest of the third quarter.
The two squads traded leads for most of the period, before Ateneo inched ahead on a jumper from Salva to make it 59-57 with 2:45 to go in the third.
That turned out to be the go-ahead basket for the Blue Eagles, and they would control the game the rest of the way, even taking a 10-point lead, 74-64, late in the final period.
The Maroons mounted a final rally with around two minutes to go when Raul Soyud and Padilla scored consecutive baskets to make it 68-74.
But UP committed a turnover in their next possession and Mark Lopez missed a lay-up, ending the Maroons’ comeback hopes.
Salva iced the game with two charities, and Lopez hit a baseline jumper to close the scoring.
The Blue Eagles now have a 4-1 record, while the Maroons remain winless at 0-4.
Lopez topscored with 13 points, while Chris Ball finished with 11 markers, all of which came in the first half when UP was in control of the ball game.
It was Ball who gave the Fighting Maroons a strong start, scoring six points in the opening period and playing physical defense on Slaughter. But he was quiet in the second half as the Maroons fell apart.