Ateneo – NU: Contrapelo?

Someone pointed out to me that Ateneo has lost to National University the last three times they met. Is that right? My old memory of NU is that they were the whipping boys of the UAAP. When any UAAP team played NU, it was almost a sure thing the team would end up with the win.  

Then in 2008 the Sy family bought NU. Everyone knew that, with their deep pockets, the Sy family will definitely use basketball and sports to promote the school and raise enrollment numbers. Eric Altamirano was hired as Coach and Bobby Ray Parks became the Poster Boy of the team. NU’s fortunes changed favorably, albeit slowly. NU started to win games but unfortunately they would also lose games. Sometimes they would lose games with them comfortably ahead in the fourth quarter. Parks went on to grab two MVP honors but despite that and stellar import Emmanuel Mbe who would average 11 rebounds a game, NU would not reach the Finals. So close, yet so far!

This season, with the departure of Bobby Ray Parks, not much was expected of NU except probably to make the Final Four. This is the time for the other recruits of NU to excel, and surprisingly they are doing well! They are tall and athletic and can shoot from the outside. Alfred Aroga is a monster inside the paint and can dominate the big men of the other teams. He is averaging more than 9 rebounds a game and is the leader in blocks. If NU had Aroga last season, they would have made the Finals and maybe would have won it all. Kudos to Coach Eric Altamirano and the coaching staff for making the team competitive and cohesive from the get-go. Come to think of it, the coaches of both NU and Ateneo  are UP alumni. 

For Ateneo to win, everyone including Kiefer must step up. The Phenom had a dismal showing in the last Ateneo-NU game with “just” 13 points. Kiefer has vowed to step up and I’m sure he will find a way to redeem himself. In Kiefer We Trust! When Ateneo played UE, they doubled- and triple-teamed Charles Mammie, shutting him down in the second half. Ateneo must do the same and always put a body or two on Aroga. Will Coach Bo play that card?

Chris Newsome and Von Pessumal, do your stuff! Arvin Tolentino, we need you now, more than ever! From the NU side, I hope Troy Rosario doesn’t play well because he can really light it up from the outside. Neypes, please keep it clean! Your new hippie look just masks your brusqueness. 🙂 

I expect the game to be a grind it out affair. Both teams will be battle-tested. This game will be like a chess game wherein coaches will try to exploit the weaknesses of the opposing team. As usual, whoever has the poise in the endgame will win. I hope it’s us. It’s Payback time! OBF!

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