Ateneo de Manila University maximized its finals experience and were anchored by the steady hands of Matt Nieto to clobber the third seed University of the Philippines (UP), 88-79 in Game 1 of the UAAP men’s basketball finals Saturday at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Nieto scored a career-high 27 points and notched three steals, most coming off UP’s turnovers, anchoring a 25-point scoring romp by the Blue Eagles in the fourth quarter to transform the nip-and-tuck affair into a rout.
The Fighting Maroons, who kept the game close for the first three quarters, succumbed to Ateneo’s halfcourt press, giving up five straight turnover points as the Blue Eagles racked a 9-0 run midway in the fourth for an 84-72 lead.
Not even the return of Bright Akhuetie from a knee injury sustained in the third quarter salvaged the Maroons’ sinking ship. Jun Manzo, who tied his career-high 19 points, meanwhile disappeared in the fourth quarter, scoring nothing.
Thirdy Ravena acted as chief playmaker in a reversal of roles with Nieto, tallying 21 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists.
(More details to follow)