By Waylon Galvez
(Smart Araneta Coliseum)
11 a.m. – NU vs FEU (women’s)
3:30 p.m. – Ateneo vs UP (men’s)
It will be coronation for Ateneo or survival for University of the Philippines when they face off in today’s Game 2 of the 81st UAAP basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Blue Eagles coach Tab Baldwin is fully aware of what they are up to in the 3:30 p.m. game following their 88-79 victory in the series opener over the weekend.
“We can’t expect anything less from them (Maroons),” said Baldwin, whose team is gunning for its 10th crown.
If the Fighting Maroons send the race-to-three affair to a decider, it will be played this Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Sandy Arespacochaga, the Ateneo assistant coach, believes the team will have to focus on the task at hand even as the coaching staff has reviewed Game One.
“We are focused on what we have to do (in Game 2),” said Arespacochaga. “We watched the game tape and went over details of our offense and defense and also with UP’s offense and defense.”
In winning Game One, Ateneo banked on Thirdy Ravena, last season’s Finals MVP, who nearly pulled off a triple double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists.
Ravena’s sterling showing was aided by the team and career-high 27 points of Matt Nieto, who exploded for 19 in the second half.
UP, which advanced to the finals for the first time since 1986, the last time it won the UAAP championship, has proven that it can score crucial back-to-back wins after its disposal of twice-to-beat Adamson in the Final Four.
But for the Maroons to send the title showdown to a decider this weekend, a key player has to step up big time.
Nigerian center Bright Akhuetie, who hurt his left knee in the third period of Game 1, could only produce 10 points and five boards the last time.
Expected to be named MVP, Akhuetie will have Ateneo’s own African recruit, Angerlo Jouname of Ivory Coast, to manage Akhuetie’s numbers.
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