By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
PRACTICALLY seen it all in solid campaigns the past two seasons, two-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines defending champions Ateneo Blue Eagles know better than celebrating too much despite their early success in Season 82.
It is a mindset that they are holding to as they begin the second round of the ongoing tournament.
Channeled the unstoppable in the opening round on their way to an unblemished 7-0 record, the Eagles said they are happy where they are at but that work is not yet done for them and that there is still a lot of basketball to be played requiring them to be at their best.
“We don’t really pause to talk about what we’re proud of. We have a lot to work on. So we really try to stay focused forward, not backward. I think the way you enjoy your season is to win the championship and then it’s all behind you. So you don’t have any option other than to look back,” said Ateneo coach Tab Baldwin as he talked about the first round they had after wrapping up their assignments with an 89-63 victory over University of the Philippines on Sept. 29.
“Right now we have a lot of basketball ahead of us in a short period of time so we don’t have the luxury to take a breath and you know, talk about any accomplishments. In our eyes, there aren’t any accomplishments yet…” he added.
As a team, Ateneo has been clicking on both ends to date.
The Eagles are tops in defense, allowing only 59.71 points to opponents per game and lead the league in blocks with 7.57 swats per outing.
Ateneo is second in offense with 75.71 points per game as well as second in rebounds (49.14 rpg) and assists (16 apg).
Collectively they are not turning the ball that much with 14.43 average miscues which is second-best in the league in the first round.
Foreign player and last year’s rookie of the year Ange Kouame is leading the way for the balanced Eagles attack with averages of 14 points, 13.14 rebounds and 4.86 blocks per game.
Thirdy Ravena has been good for 11.57 ppg, 7.14 rpg and 2.43 apg with Matt Nieto and Will Navarro adding 8.86 and 7.43 points, respectively.
The Eagles will begin their second-round campaign on Oct. 5 against the third-running University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers (4-3).