The Ateneo Blue Eagles opened their UAAP Season 80 campaign with a huge win over the Adamson Soaring Falcons, 85-65, Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“It’s a good win for us. I guess we were a bit lucky that Papi Sarr wasn’t in the game,” Blue Eagles assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga said on playing against an Adamson squad without their big man Papi Sarr, who sat out their opener due to a groin injury.
Chibueze Ikeh took charge for Ateneo especially in the first half, as he posted a double-double of 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting and 17 rebounds.
“I guess we weren’t as surprised that Ikeh played a good game. He’s been playing well for us [in the] past few weeks and practices,” Arespacochaga continued. “He’s really stepped up his game. We’re happy that Ikeh was able to play the way that he’s been practicing.”
Ateneo relied on Thirdy Ravena and Jolo Mendoza in the crucial moments of the final frame. Ravena led all scorers with 20 points to go with 10 boards, while Mendoza knocked down three triples, including the dagger that secured their victory, en route to 14 points.
The Blue Eagles established a 20-point advantage towards the end of the third frame. The Falcons, however, finished the period on a high note with six straight points and carried over their momentum to the payoff period.
With their pressure defense, Adamson rattled the Blue Eagles, forced several turnovers, and made one final push. Keith Zaldibar’s back-to-back baskets and Kurt Lojera’s layup cut their deficit to just nine, 63-54.
Matt Nieto gave Adamson a dose of their own medicine as his two consecutive steals helped Ateneo recover from the Falcons’ run. Ravena and Mendoza then finished the job for the Blue Eagles as they came away with a blowout win.
Lojera and Zaldibar paced Adamson with 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Jerrick Ahanmisi and Sean Manganti added nine points apiece.
The Falcons really felt the absence of Sarr as they got clobbered on the glass, 60-35. Ateneo also made a living out of second opportunities as they converted 29 points, compared to just six for Adamson. Ikeh was responsible for 12 of Ateneo’s 29 offensive boards.
“We need to do a better job taking care of the ball but we got a lot of extra possessions off of rebounds, especially with Ikeh and our other bigs. That helped us a lot,” Arespacochaga said on what pushed them ahead. “We’re also happy with our defense, limiting Adamson to 36 percent from the field. We’re happy that we played well against this tough team.”
Ateneo will be tested next by the UP Fighting Maroons on Wednesday, while Adamson will look to bounce back as they face the UST Growling Tigers on Saturday.