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5 talking points from UAAP hoops Wednesday

MANILA, Philippines — It was another eventful UAAP game day where the FEU Tamaraws survived National University’s end game rally to win, 90-83, while the Ateneo Blue Eagles bucked a tough challenge from the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 94-84, for their fifth win in as many matches.

There were outstanding performers and one big thing that we have to address.

JJ Alejandro is playing like a man possessed

Do you remember when JJ Alejandro sank Ateneo en route to National University’s title run years ago? After that, everyone thought that he’d strap on the Bulldogs on his back and tow them back to the Promised Land. Except he battled niggling injuries and was largely a non-factor.

In his final year of UAAP ball, Alejandro isn’t only third in scoring in the league with an average of 17.8 a game but he is tops in assists with 5.6 a match and is second in steals with 1.8.

During NU’s loss to FEU last Wednesday, Alejandro scored 23 points including 11 in the final quarter.

Matt Aquino who has been getting better provided capable support but if NU wants to edge into what is going to be a crowded Final Four race, they will need Dave Yu, Matt Salem, Issa Gaye, and one other guard to really play well.

Honestly, I didn’t tab NU to make it to the next round. I thought that they have too many young players and not enough big game experience to get them over the hump.

In Arvin Tolentino, FEU now has their post-Belo/Pogoy star

He scored a measly 7 against La Salle, 11 against UE and Ateneo, 15 against UST and now 23 against NU.

The former Blue Eagles has found his niche and role with the Tamaraws. The season (including the pre-season) started out with Ron Dennison leading this team but more and more, Arvin is taking this team on much like NU’s Alejandro. The difference is, Arvin has more help with the Tams. He shoots, posts up, and as head coach Olsen Racela says, the more Tolentino boxes out, rebounds, and plays defense, the more minutes he will see. And Tolentino, the third year forward is delivering. As you can see, his numbers are going up.

Make no mistake, Ron Dennison is a two-way player who can also turn things around with his defense and timely shots. So it is best to put it that along with Tolentino, they form a formidable 1-2 punch (the former is averaging 13.2 points while the latter is slightly ahead by 13.4).

UST played great was ultimately luckless in the end

UST head coach Boy Sablan has taken a lot of stick from different quarters and this writer included, but we have given credit where it is due. He almost pulled the rug from under Tab Baldwin with how his Growling Tigers played Ateneo.

First, his unconventional starting five in Jordan Sta. Ana, Jeepy Faundo, Marvin Romero, Zach Huang and Jorem Soriano had Ateneo off-balance. Tall, athletic and willing to take the battle inside. In fact, of UST’s first 10 field goals, eight came inside the lane.

And second was his team hanging tough all match long and all season long. Again, this team is much better than its record of 0-5. Remember, a lot of these players were on the bench in previous years and only got a lot of playing time this season. So while the record is bad and it looks like their will miss the next round, there is hope for this team because they have some prime time players coming up.

Matt Nieto is making Ateneo go.

A friend remarked to me that Matt has to earn the “J” on the back of his jersey as the twin brother of fellow Blue Eagle, Mike – as he has no “J” – “J” for jumpshot. But in the past three matches for Ateneo, he has hit some huge baskets.

While Matt can play and run the offense, he has come up huge in these past three wins by Ateneo – against FEU (11 points, 3 assists, and 2 blocks), UE (11 points, 3 assists, 1 steal), and UST (22 point, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1 block).

He has steadied their ship during tough times and especially during that atrociously-officiated match against UST last Wednesday.

And on that note, the last point.

The UAAP must look into that badly officiated Ateneo-UST match.

It is easy to say that bad calls happen and do happen in games because referees are only human. Sure we get that. But we weren’t born yesterday.

UAAP commissioner Rebo Saguisag must look into that atrociously-officiated match between Ateneo and UST. From start to finish there were a lot of weird, horrible and even questionable decisions. Was the match’s outcome being manipulated?

If the Manny Pacquiao-Jeff Horn match was re-scored by a different panel of judges, can this match be reviewed not only by the game officials but also others in full view of all coaches so it can be understood how fouls are called?

Let’s not butter up the obvious – something was up in that game.

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