by Waylon Galvez
Games Today (Mall of Asia Arena, Pasay City)
2 p.m. – UST vs UP
4 p.m. – Ateneo vs FEU
Far Eastern University head coach Olsen Racela believes Ateneo has become more fearsome since winning the UAAP title last year.
That’s the reason he challenged his players to give it their all when they clash with the reigning champions today at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena in Pasay City.
“They’re a better team that last year because they’re the defending champion,” Racela said. “We have a tough game ahead of us. But we’ll go all out, give it our best and try to beat Ateneo.”
The two teams are coming off impressive wins with the Eagles defeating archrival De La Salle Green Archers, 71-55, last Saturday, while the Tamaraws besting the previously unbeaten Adamson Falcons, 85-80, in overtime last Sunday.
Ateneo and Adamson are currently tied for the lead with similar 5-1 cards, followed by FEU at 4-2.
The game between the Eagles and the Tamaraws is set at 4 p.m., right after the encounter of the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons (3-3) against the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers (2-4) at 2 p.m.
UP earned its first back-to-back wins this season following a nail-biting 89-88 triumph against National University, which came a week after scoring a 67-61 win over DLSU.
As for UST, the team is coming off an 80-66 win versus University of the East although the Tigers will continue to miss the Cameroonian center Steve Akomo, who previously suffered from food poisoning but has been diagnosed with blood clot in his brain.
The game featuring Ateneo and FEU is a rematch of last season’s Final Four as the fourth seeded Tamaraws extended a do-or-die game against top seeded Eagles with an 80-67 win.
In their no-tomorrow match, Ateneo came through with an 88-84 win to clinch a finals spot in the title series.
Although the Eagles opened their season with a painful 74-70 loss to the Falcons, Baldwin’s team has put together impressive wins in their last five outings, including that win against the Archers at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Racela said he is counting on his players to step up after their win against the Falcons, especially now that they are one-man down as forward Arvin Tolentino will serve a one-game suspension after he was ejected in the fourth period for his unsportsmanlike foul on Adamson’s Sean Manganti.
“We played great against Adamson, but the question is how do we follow up on it. That has been a problem for us, following it up with another win. Hopefully we’ve learned our lessons as we try to win,” said Racela.