5 points from the Ateneo-UST PCCL match
5 points from the Ateneo-UST PCCL match
Rick Olivares (Philstar.com) - February 11, 2020 - 11:45am

MANILA, Philippines – The Ateneo Blue Eagles defeated the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, 82-71, in the Philippine Collegiate Champions League Monday.

Ateneo led comfortably for much of the contest but saw UST, their UAAP finals opponent, raze their double-digit lead to one, 66-65, entering the fourth quarter. The Blue Eagles, the reigning three-peat UAAP champions held fast on defense while UST’s outside guns cooled off in the fourth. At one point UST managed only three points while Ateneo found its second gear. 

Ateneo is now 2-0 and will face Letran this Saturday, February 15, in the final match of the round-robin affair of these UAAP and NCAA finals teams. UST dropped to 1-1 and will play San Beda also on the same date with the winner advancing to the PCCL finals. 

Yes, it is the post-UAAP season and teams aren’t exactly in killer form but here are things we can glean from them.

SJ Belangel has really stepped up for Ateneo

Only in his second year with the Ateneo’s senior team after having come up from its juniors ranks, Belangel has taken the reins from Matt Nieto as the lead point guard (he finished with a game high 26 points and two assists). Except he is a more high-scoring guard, one not seen in these parts since Kiefer Ravena was in uniform.

Even back during his days with the Blue Eaglets, SJ could always take the big shot. However, in these PCCL matches, there were times during the games when I thought that he deviated from Ateneo’s offense, but he generally did very well and the Blue Eagles could use someone who will want the ball in his hands when they need a basket.

I do like how at one point, he played alongside Tyler Tio; playing two point guards at the same time. I do like how Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin allowed Jason Credo to bring up that ball and create. Jason just needs to be more assertive. 

But SJ… 25.5 points in these two PCCL matches… wow. What a step up!

Ateneo continues to look good

Losing five key players — three of them starters — and Ateneo still looks good in winning their two matches versus San Beda and UST. Yes, they look raw and rusty and not yet a fully team in every sense of the word. But they still made it look easy for the most part of the game against a UST team that came out with fire and elbows and knees from the get-go. 

Troy Mallillin and Mathew Daves look more at ease. The same wit Gio Chiu. Newcomer Dwight Ramos (eight points) still is in this feeling out period, but he will deliver. In the endgame versus UST, they went all-Filipino even if the Growling Tigers had Soulemane Chabi Yo on the floor.

UST looks buff even this early

Looks like Aldin Ayo has his boys hitting the weight room already because they do look a lot bigger. Even new guard Paul Manalang, who is technically in his third year in college (after graduating from NU high school) looks to have put on some muscle.

This past UAAP Season 82, I thought that UST played more basketball. But this PCCL, especially against Ateneo, they played more physical. Sometimes, unwarranted.

Where this goes remains to be seen.

Deo Cuajao finally showed what he could do

Another big time bomber on this UST squad. This kid sat on the bench this past UAAP season, but Cuajao (14 points) did bring back the Growling Tigers in this match with his 3-point shooting. If he can approximate Renzo Subido’s contributions, UST should continue to roll especially now they have gotten huge experience from playing in the finals. 

If these guys — Mark Nonoy, Rhenz Abando, Brent Paraiso, CJ Cansino, and Sherwin Concepcion — are on target that will open up the lane for Chabi Yo, Dave Ando and Ira Bataller. 

Both teams did not have their full lineups

Ateneo was still without Raffy Verano and Jolo Mendoza and Baldwin clearly was throwing in all sorts of unusual combinations. UST… if they can bring up Tiger Cub forward/center Bismarck Lina will add another workhorse in the vein of Zach Huang (who like Subido are done with college). Lina though is stronger inside although he needs to work on his medium range jumper (that Dave Ando has). 

The summer leagues should be very interesting.

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