The Eagles had no problems defeating last season's victory-less Maroons, handing them a pair of big defeats. Round one saw Ateneo post a 25-point win, 78-53, with Eric Salamat dishing out nine steals and swiping four times, and Nico Salva taking charge of the scoring with 18 points to his name. The margin of victory was smaller in round two, just 16 points, 75-59, but this time it was big man Justin Chua dominating inside with 16 points, and Emman Monfort providing the outside support, with a monster statline of 23 points, 5 of 10 shooting from beyond the arc, six rebounds, five assists and four steals.
Stat to Watch : The Maroons are heavily dependent on getting out in transition, leading the league in fastbreak points, with 20.67 a game, almost 31% of their average points per game. This of course, causes some awkwardness when they miss multiple wide open layups, which is what they did versus DLSU, but if they connect more consistently, for sure that number is going to balloon upwards.
Player to Watch : Mike Gamboa has always been a bit of an inconsistent player, vacillating between stud point guard and turnover machine. So far this season, turnovers haven't been a problem, totaling just 4 in three games. Instead, it's his shot that's been wildly off. After a great start against UE (19 points, 6/15 shooting), he's been on a downward slide, getting 9 versus NU, and then just 3 versus DLSU. Overall, he's shooting just 36.67% from the field, relying too much on his jumper, instead of driving down the lane (just 7 free throw attempts all season). As a former Eaglet, odds are, he'll want to have a good game against his former school, but such things can sometimes backfire, with the player trying to do too much.
Stat to Watch : How do you quantify the impact of having Greg Slaughter guard the shaded lane beyond blocks? The Eagles allow the second-fewest points, just 61.5 a game, and they do so by holding opponents to just 36.04% percent on two-point baskets, and 42.74% on points in the paint, tops in the league in those stats.
Player to Watch : Justin Chua hasn't adjusted very well to coming off the bench again after getting the nod to start down the stretch last season, when he averaged 8.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 19.5 minutes. He's only scored 6 points in 4 games, on putrid 13.33% field goal shooting, despite usually being the go-to guy of Ateneo's bench quintet. The Eagles would love for him to get his groove back, and a height-challenged team like UP gives him a good opportunity to do just that (of course, an argument could be made that the game against UE should have allowed him to do that as well...)
Prediction: ADMU Blue Eagles