AN engaged Ateneo shoots for the first Final Four berth against National University, while La Salle tries to get back on the winning track and maintain the No. 3 spot as it tangles with fading Far Eastern University today in the UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Posting an average winning margin of 19 points in three second round matches, the back-to-back title-seeking Blue Eagles are tipped to prevail in their 2 p.m. showdown with the struggling Bulldogs.
As the Tamaraws are mired on a two-game losing streak and Nigerian slotman Prince Orizu still a doubtful starter, the Green Archers hope to get the needed breaks to stay within the top four range at 4 p.m.
Sporting a league-best 8-2 card, Ateneo has dislodged Adamson for the top spot, as the Katipunan-based squad displayed dominant form the way it should be as defending champions in the second round.
What’s remarkable is the Eagles are dismantling opponents at ease despite not having brothers Matt and Mike Nieto for the entire second round, and Thirdy Ravena suspended for a game last weekend due to unsportsmanlike conduct.
“Credit for the entire team for stepping up in their absence,” said Ateneo assistant coach Sandy Arespacochaga.
One example is Tyler Tio, who after becoming the starting guard in lieu of Matt Nieto at the start of the second round, has averaging 12 points, 3.3 assists and 1.7 rebounds in the last three contests.
“He is doing his role, I think. That was the role given to him. The role that is expected of him. Think about it that it was a big responsibility stepping in for a player like Matt. But that was the team needs him to do and we trust in him also. He is stepping up and doing his job,” said Arespacochaga on Tio.