By NIKOLE JAVIER
Defending champion University of the Philippines and Ateneo will clash in a do-or-die match for the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball title Monday, Dec. 19, at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Coming from a 65-55 win in Game 2 last Dec. 14, the Blue Eagles are raring to complete their redemption bid against an equally talented Fighting Maroons side in the 6 p.m. tipoff.
With momentum shifting on its side, Ateneo will definitely bank on the all-around showing of former Season MVP Ange Kouame, who delivered the boost with his double-double performance of 19 points and 11 rebounds to go along with three steals and three blocks in the second game.
Kai Ballungay will also get his hands dirty following an inspired 15-point outing on a decent 7-of-10 shooting clip.
Standing in their way, however, is a UP squad that is dealing with the loss of Zavier Lucero who suffered an ACL tear the last time out -- an unfortunate end to his short-lived UAAP career where he was the second leading scorer in the semifinals with an average of 11.36 points that went with 5.29 rebounds and 1.93 assists.
UP big man Malick Diouf, who was named Season 85 Most Valuable Player, is expected to redeem himself in their mission to win back-to-back championship titles following a dismal Game 2 outing where he was held at two points in 16 minutes of play.
For the last time this season though, Diouf could use some extra hands in Carl Tamayo and JD Cagulangan who both paced UP in their Game 2 loss.