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UAAP: Whose win streak will end today?

Adamson's Dawn Ochea (left) and Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena battle for the rebound the ball during the UAAP Season 80 match at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, September 9, 2017 (Rio Leonelle Deluvio)

By Jerome Lagunzad

Games Today
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
2 p.m. – UE vs NU
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs Adamson

Soaring Falcons out to stop Eagles.

A lot has changed since Ateneo beat Adamson with ease the last time out.

Cameroon big man Papi Sarr appeared to have regained his full strength since recovering from a groin injury while the locals have been consistently chipping in ample contributions in the course of the Soaring Falcons’ four-game winning run.

That explains why the Blue Eagles are bracing themselves for a tougher grind against the Soaring Falcons when they clash today in the UAAP basketball tournament at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.

Tip off is at 4 p.m., with Ateneo, fresh from a six-day break, eager to sustain its impressive form after sweeping the first round of play and reassert its mastery over Adamson following a convincing 85-65 victory last Sept. 9.

But long-time assistant Sandy Arespacochaga is convinced that the Blue Eagles, as fluid as they’ve been playing right now, will have their hands full against a dangerous Soaring Falcons bunch.

“The last time we played them, Papi Sarr didn’t play. And they’re on a roll right now,” he stressed.

“They’re a well-coached team. You could see a couple of their players who didn’t play well against us in the first round are already hitting their stride. So it’s gonna be a different battle compared to when we played them in the first round. We really have to prepare well against them.”

Clashing in the opener at 2 p.m. are National University and University of the East, both determined to kick off their respective campaigns in the second round on a high note.

The Bulldogs should come in as favorites after scoring an 86-69 win over the Red Warriors in the season opener. But NU coach Jamike Jarin believes UE remains dangerous after its breakthrough win over struggling University of Santo Tomas last week.

“We cannot take them for granted. They’ve shown what they are capable of,” he said. “Hopefully, we can fast-track the development of my younger players. Now we got the experience in the first round and hopefully the experience we got will benefit us and it will result to more wins.”

All eyes, however, will be on the “Birds of Prey,” with Adamson coach Franz Pumaren challenging his wards to keep themselves “within striking distance” of Ateneo and defending champion La Salle.

“What’s important right now, like what I told my players, we have to be within striking distance of the Top Two always and that’s been our objective,” he said.

“I’ll be a hypocrite if I tell you we’re not aiming for a better finish than last season. But that’s our main goal right now, to make sure that we’re in the hunt.”

Expected to lead Adamson’s attack are the 6-foot-8 Sarr, Jerrick Ahanmisi, Rob Manalang and Jerie Pingoy while top wingman Thirdy Ravena, Matt Nieto, Vince Tolentino and Nigerian Chibueze Ikeh are tipped to show the way for Ateneo.