By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter
THE defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles collared solo leadership in Season 81 of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines with a 90-70 victory over the University of the East Red Warriors in league action on Wednesday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Once again showing collective dominance right at the onset, Ateneo channelled the unstoppable against UE as it booked its third straight win and improve to 8-2 in the standings, breaking a tie with idle Adamson Soaring Falcons (7-2).
The Eagles encountered early resistance from the Warriors before the former started flexing their muscle some more.
They held a 29-15 lead after the opening quarter and widened the gap some more by the halftime break, 57-24.
UE came out with more fight to start the third period, led by guard Philip Manalang.
The Warriors managed to narrow the gap to 19 points, 63-44, with a little over three minutes to go in the frame.
But the Eagles would not allow UE to come closer than that as they reestablished their footing the rest of the way, paced by Raffy Verano and Gian Mamuyac, to build on their lead, 73-51, heading into the payoff quarter.
Alvin Pasaol tried to tow the Warriors back in the contest to begin the final frame.
They cut their deficit to 17 points, 77-60, at the 5:42 mark.
But much like what it had been doing throughout the match, Ateneo would find ways to douse cold water on the UE rally and just cruised to the win for the remainder of the contest.
Reigning UAAP player of the week Angelo Kouame led the Eagles with 18 points and 16 rebounds while Tyler Tio finished with a career-high 16 points.
Verano had 14 points while Thirdy Ravena, back after serving a one-game league suspension, and Jolo Mendoza each had 10 points for Ateneo.
Pasaol had another double-double for UE (1-9) with 29 points and 14 rebounds while Manalang had a season-high 18 points to go along with six assists.
Ateneo returns to action on Oct. 27 against National University (3-6) while UE next plays on Oct. 28 versus University of Santo Tomas (4-5).