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Ateneo wary of Tigers

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Smart-Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – FEU vs NU
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs UST

Powerhouse Ateneo has been toppling the opposition so far with an average winning margin of 17.75 points in the course of its four-game winning run in the UAAP Season 80 basketball tournament.

Their impressive start should evoke memories of the Blue Eagles’ dominant run in 2011 – then under the tutelage of American coach Norman Black – when they won their first 13 matches and soared their way to the fourth crown of their five-peat title conquest.

However, Sandy Arespacochaga, the longest tenured among Ateneo’s assistant coaches, is not looking that far ahead, saying the Blue Eagles – as fluid as they’ve been playing so far – still have some rough edges that needs to be polished.

And that could only make struggling University of Santo Tomas more wary today when the Growling Tigers take their crack at the high-flying Blue Eagles in their 4 p.m. encounter at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Ateneo is expected to compound the woes of UST which has dropped its first four games, its worst start in over a decade since the Growling Tigers stunned the Blue Eagles in their epic three-game finals battle in 2006.

But Arespacochaga is quick to remind his charges not to fall into any false sense of complacency.

“We can’t fall into the trap of looking and enjoying our record. We can’t be complacent. We got to stay focused since there’s a lot of things that we can still improve on,” he said.

Clashing in an exciting opener set at 2 o’clock are host Far Eastern University and National University which both intend to keep in step with the pacesetters.

The Tamaraws are aiming an encore to a 78-65 victory over UST while the Bulldogs are eager to bounce back from a seven-point loss dealt by Adamson over the weekend.

The lion’s share of the spotlight, however, is expected to fall on the main match, with UST out to play with a better sense of urgency to fan its hopes of stopping the bleeding.

“Medyo nagpa-panic na kami pero hindi kami kailangan magpadala sa mga negatives. Imo-motivate pa rin namin ‘yung mga sarili namin hanggat sa makakaya,” said veteran Jeepy Faundo, the most consistent force among the Tigers so far.