MANILA --- Ateneo de Manila went through the wringer before defeating pesky University of the East, 80-73, in the 73rd UAAP men’s basketball tournament at the Philsports Arena in Pasig City.

Skipper Erik Salamat poured nine of his career-high 23 points in the fourth quarter to lift Ateneo against a Paul Lee-squad.

Salamat made back-to-back triples in the first two minutes of the last canto to erase the six-point cushion of UE at the end of the third, 60-60, with 7:55 remaining.

But the Red Warriors did not leave the court without putting a fight after Paul Zamar and center Samuel Razon teamed up to give UE a 69-66 lead under six minutes of play.

The lead however was immediately diminished after American Kirk Long answered with a triple while rookies Art dela Cruz and Juami Tiongson made crucial baskets to trigger a change of tide, 77-71, with 1:06 left in the clock.

Paul Lee tried to put UE at a striking distance, 77-73, in the last 31 seconds but that proved to be the last gallant stand for Recto-based squad as UE suffered from errors and never recovered.

“We struggled offensively during the entire game. Erik Salamat’s back-to-back triples lifted our spirits a bit and also our morale. He came big for us today,” said coach Norman Black.

Ateneo and Adamson now share the second spot while UE remained at seventh place with a 1-6 (win-loss) card at the end of the first round campaign. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)