By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña
The National University (NU) Bulldogs finally ended its losing spell to the Ateneo Blue Eagles after edging them, 78-74, during their UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball clash on November 2, 2022.
NU’s historic win snapped their 13-game losing streak at the hands of the Blue Eagles. Their last win was way back 2016 during the UAAP Season 79 where they outdueled Ateneo, 70-60.
“Happy ako na nag live up sa challenge na naman ‘yung mga batang ito. Sabi ko nga diba kailangan mag-step out sila sa shadow ko,” said NU head coach Jeff Napa.
Entering the UAAP Season 85 on a two-game losing streak, the Bulldogs had a sense of urgency against Ateneo that kicked off their hunt for a Final Four campaign.
NU’s Sensational point guard Kean Baclaan did wonders for the Bulldogs early in the game after involving his teammates in their offensive sets while picking apart Ateneo’s defense with his crafty floater conversions.
Coach Tab Baldwin and the rest of the Blue Eagles then responded with a scoring blast led by Dave Ildefonso’s three-pointers that helped Ateneo close the first quarter with a 20-14 lead.
However, NU countered with a quick 13-3 run to open the second frame and retook the lead 27-23, holding the Blue Eagles to just three points in seven minutes.
The duel went to a nip-and-tuck affair the whole game but it was NU who sank more baskets in the crucial last three minutes.
With NU leading by five, 70-65, Ateneo’s resiliency once again rose to the occasion and managed to deadlock the game at 72-all after a BJ Andrade leftie layup.
Off a timeout play from coach Napa, the Bulldogs perfectly executed a backdoor cut play to Jolo Manansala that proved to be the game-sealing basket for NU.
Manansala was a man on a mission for the Bulldogs and dropped 17 points, 11 rebounds, three assists, two steals, and two blocks.
Meanwhile, Ateneo got 21 big points from Andrade but was not enough to help the Blue Eagles improve to 6-2.