It was an anticlimactic but proper end to a terrific game. This game had just about everything. Soaring dunks, big threes, wicked blocks, wild momentum swings and superb performances from both clubs. It also wasn't settled until the final buzzer. In other words, it was everything that makes the UAAP a must-watch for so many sports fans.
Kudos to UST for fighting, but this was a fair result and the better team deservedly won. UST showed a lot of heart in coming back but it wasn't all that pretty. There were precious few extra passes from UST. The Tigers either sliced into the lane when one of them saw daylight or fired from the outside. A bit too barangay-league for my taste. Problem was for Ateneo, in the fourth quarter, those shots went in again and again. That's why UST was able to salvage around a lost game.
Momentum and heart kept UST in the game, not pretty Basketball.
The Tigers ran out of pixie dust on the last five seconds, a dreadfully executed inbound play where Aljon Mariano was forced to heave from the parking lot. Mariano finished with just 10 points and was off most of the day. Mariano should have driven into the paint and at least fished for a foul. But credit Nico Salva for the tough defense on the stop.
Ateneo has thrived this season thanks to unselfish play and lots of ball movement. They showed it again all throughout. The Eagles should have won this game easily after bucking a sluggish start to open up a lead late in the second half. But credit Juami Tiongson for a heady, team-first mentality and Kiefer Ravena for gutting it out with 18 points.
We know that if UST meets Ateneo in the Finals, it will be no walk in the park. No team has played the defending champs better than UST this season. They have now split their season series in two grueling matchups. If we see more of these two tangling in the Final Four, expect fireworks.
Karim Abdul has been a revelation this season. Not only can he block shots and score from close range, but his midrange jumper was sensational. The Cameroonian will be absolutely key in UST's drive for a first title since 2006. Tata Bautista had a monster fourth quarter with some huge buckets in the endgame. And Kevin Ferrer had some big contributions.
UST used a 2-3 zone on Ateneo for much of the game and in spots it gave Ateneo fits. Their late-game Pumaren-esque press also caused issues.
The road to an historic five-peat might not be as easy as some might think for the Blue Eagles.
Today's games should have been separate-ticket games. I love the two-ticket weekend games in the UAAP, where one ticket gets you into a 12 noon game and another gets you into a 4pm clash. This should be the norm and not the exception. I was surprised that it wasn't the case for the two games today. The first was at two pm and the second at one pm, with one doubleheader ticket allowing you in for both.
The two-ticket system allows you to watch just the game you want to watch. Only true hoops junkies, who will take in just about anything, won't like it. It also allows two very important showdowns to take place on the same day without running out of tickets.
The UAAP should have done this years ago, and I felt they should have done it today, even though UE and Adamson are out of the running. (Adamson beat the Warriors in the 2pm game in a rout.)
The only problem with the two-ticket system: the first game is still aired at 2 pm, only on a delayed-telecast basis. So fans of the teams playing on that time slot are forced to do a news blackout from social media before and during the airing.
Is the UAAP over-merchandised on TV? The players can't shoot, rebound, block, assist, wipe sweat, blink, or breathe without it being replayed with a sponsor's message. Can you blame ABS-CBN? Probably not. The league is just so red-hot that the demand from advertisers is massive. I just wish some of the plugs were more creative. Best in-game plug ever was the "sobrang cheesy" plug of that pizza chain where they had replays of players hugging after a big play. That kind of creativity makes the shilling a bit easier to bear.
But does the merchandising stop us from watching? No way. Especially with a Final Four that is looking more and more enticing with every game.
You can follow Bob on Twitter @bhobg333.