The National University (NU) Bulldogs handed the defending champions, Ateneo Blue Eagles, a 77-64 defeat in the opening game of the UAAP Season 86 men’s basketball tournament held at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday, September 30.
In a game where both teams showcased new faces for the season, it was NU’s young talents who dominated from the start, putting Ateneo on notice.
The Bulldogs initially struggled, missing their first 10 attempts from beyond the arc. They found their rhythm in the second half, making six of their next nine three-pointers to take control of the game.
The turning point came in the fourth quarter, as the Bulldogs had a blazing start, scoring the first ten points. Jolo Manansala and Patrick Yu nailed back-to-back three-pointers, followed by Mike Malonzo’s layup, extending their lead to 18 points with 6:49 left in the game, making the score 65-47.
Yu, with 12 points and Steve Nash Enriquez’s 10 points were instrumental in delivering the knockout blow that sent the two-time champs, Ateneo, reeling.
Eight more NU players contributed significantly to the game, with Kenshin Padrones leading with nine points, and Manansala and PJ Palacielo both scoring eight. Omar John and Jake Figueroa chipped in seven points each.
Gab Gomez and Sean Quitevis managed to put up a valiant effort for Ateneo, each contributing 12 points to their team’s tally.
Highly-touted rookie Mason Amos struggled, managing only two points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field during his 17 minutes of play. Joseph Obasa, who replaced Ange Kouame, could only contribute two points as well. Kai Ballungay had a tough night, failing to make a single field goal but managing to secure four points from the free-throw line.
The Bulldogs’ next challenge awaits them in a quadruple-header with Far Eastern University while the Blue Eagles are set to take on their arch-rivals, De La Salle University, in what promises to be another thrilling matchup on Wednesday, October 4,