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UAAP 80: Ateneo, UP clash today

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today (Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. — UE vs FEU
4 p.m. — UP vs Ateneo

University of the Philippines coach Bo Perasol is quite thrilled to see the Fighting Maroons “generate excitement” within its championship-starved community following their thrilling victory the last time out.

Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena (MB photo | Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

And the Fighting Maroons, weather-permitting, have the chance to create more buzz today when they square off with the high-flying Ateneo Blue Eagles in the resumption of the UAAP Season 80 men’s basketball action at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

The latest chapter in the “Battle of Katipunan” is set at 4 p.m., with UP out to earn a fitting encore to a thrilling 74-73 escape act against University of Santo Tomas three days ago and keep itself ahead of the eight-team pack.

However, it’s easier said than done since UP will be taking on an Ateneo side riding the crest of a dominant 85-65 victory over fellow contender Adamson last Saturday that initially underlined its title credentials.

“They were so very formidable,” said Fighting Maroons coach Bo Perasol, clearly impressed with how the Blue Eagles, notably his former players Nigerian import Chibueze Ikeh and wingman Thirdy Ravena, performed well against the Soaring Falcons.

“I really thought La Salle would be the one who’s going to be way ahead of the pack, but when I saw Ateneo play, I think they’re be going head-to-head. They’re a legitimate contender this season.”

But that doesn’t mean Perasol is already raising the white flag as UP intends to come up with another stunner against Ateneo following a 56-52 shocker in the second round of play last season—the Fighting Maroons’ first win over the Blue Eagles since 2009.

“Sana matsambahan,” hoped UP star Paul Desiderio, who knocked down the game-winning triple over UST with 1.1 seconds left. “Malay mo, may off naman sila, i-grab namin ‘yung opportunity.”

Clashing in the opener set at 2 p.m. are Far Eastern University and University of the East, both raring to barge into the winners’ column after dropping their initial assignments.

The Tamaraws are eager to bounce back from a 90-95 loss to defending champion La Salle last Sunday while the Red Warriors are out to recover from a 69-86 beating dealt by National University over the weekend.

All eyes, however, will be on the main match, with the Blue Eagles, last year’s losing finalists, equally determined to sustain their promising start.

“Every single game is big for us, because we never know when we’ll gonna need that win. Every game could be tight,” admitted Ravena, refusing to let himself and his teammates fall into a false sense of complacency.

“That’s why we want to treat each game the same way, as if it’s a Game Seven of the finals. We just have to come to the game prepared.”