Ateneo has won 9 straight games against the UST Growling Tigers, dating back to a Round One loss in Season 70. Last season provided wins 7 and 8, starting with a round one 68-56 win powered by Blue Eagles big man Justin Chua, who finished with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 4 blocked shots. The second game was much closer, with UST unleashing a 32-21 fourth quarter though Ateneo still managed to win 81-77. Coach Norman Black did a bit of experimenting in that game, fielding in seldom-used forward Chris De Chavez, and playing him 20 minutes, for 12 points. The two teams also met in the summer Fil-Oil Preseason Tournament in a game Ateneo won through its guard play, getting 10 points each from Kirk Long, Tonino Gonzaga and Kiefer Ravena, and defense, holding UST to just 4 points in the third quarter, 59-46.
Stat to Watch : Ateneo's three-point shooting has been wildly erratic, getting just one triple twice, but also launching a barrage of six two times as well. The number of triples made is usually a good benchmark of success for this team, as they struggle to get proper spacing when the treys aren't going in. The Tigers might consider trying a zone defense, just to check the temperature of Ateneo's three-point accuracy, and then play off that.
Player to Watch : Kirk Long has been known as the slayer of tigers, due to some extremely clutch performances by him against UST. If Long decides to revert to scoring mode and burns the Tigers, the psychological scars might mar them until Long finally graduates next year.
Stat to Watch : Fourth quarter meltdown? That's the UST Growling Tigers this season, as they allow 21.5 fourth quarter points, one of only two teams to give up more than 20 points in the fourth quarter (DLSU is the other, with 20.4). That might turn out to be a crucial flaw if it comes out versus Ateneo, as the Eagles have broken games wide open in the final period, as seen in their games against UE and UP.
Player to Watch : During the summer, Ateneo went with the radical idea of having Kiefer Ravena guard Kevin Ferrer, despite the four-plus inch difference in height. But experience of having played Ferrer in the juniors division made up the deficit, and Ravena wound up shutting Ferrer down, holding him to just six points and four rebounds. It's possible we might see this again during the game, and if "The Phenom" manages to contain Ferrer, it'll be yet another impressive achievement in his young collegiate career.
Prediction: ADMU Blue Eagles