After a season had gone by since their Season 72 battle for the UAAP title, a vastly diminished UE squad still gave the ADMU Blue Eagles fits in both rounds of Season 73. In their first encounter, Ateneo needed a big 29-16 fourth quarter, plus stellar performances from Eric Salamat (23 points, 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals) and Justin Chua (13 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks) to come out on top, 80-73. Round two saw the Red Warriors upset Ateneo late, behind a breakout showing by Kit Rosopa (12 points, 8 rebounds, 4 blocks) and sizzling shooting from James Martinez (22 points off the bench), 62-60.
Stat to Watch : UE's rebounding has been keeping them in games, no matter how tall their opponent, getting 45.67 rebounds on average, 17.67 offensive, and of those offensive rebounds, the Red Warriors score around 11.33 second chance points. They'll be up against their tallest opposition though, as 7'0" Greg Slaughter will be there waiting to get a few rebounds.
Player to Watch : In the off-season, Ateneo coveted one of the two San Beda Red Cubs big men, Ponso Gotladera or Chris Javier, with both ultimately winding up in other schools. Javier was thought to be the better fit for Ateneo, raw, could spend a season or two in Team B, before ultimately being called up and tutored by the best big man coach in the UAAP, Norman Black. Javier has a lot of potential, but whether or not he can realize it amidst a bunch of losing must be questioned. He currently averages just 5 points (41% FG) and 5.33 rebounds in 21.67 minutes for UE.
Stat to Watch : This is a battle between two teams on opposite ends of the scoring spectrum. Ateneo is the only team to have broken the 80 point barrier so far, and have done it twice, while averaging 74 points a game. UE on the other hand, is the only team to score less than 50 points, and is worst in the league with an average of just 53.67 points a game. Ateneo needs to turn this into a rout early, possibly by the first quarter, and not let up, removing any thoughts UE might have of an upset as soon as possible.
Player to Watch : Since his 23 point, 8 rebound debut against the Adamson Falcons, Ateneo has gone away from just pounding the ball into Slaughter, as teams have learned to double and even triple team him all the time. Against UE though, they can bring as many players as they want, but with many of them being just 6'4" tops, Slaughter might just decide that he can sky-hook and jump shoot these guys over and over, on route to a huge statistical performance. That is, if coach Norman Black gives him a lot of minutes at all.
Prediction: ADMU Blue Eagles