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MCKIE ZAPS ZIPS AFTER CAMPBELL'S TIP

It was beyond the point of frustration.

University at Buffalo basketball coach Reggie Witherspoon was well aware his team's collective state of mind had reached the danger zone.

But UB showed a champion's heart Monday night with a thrilling 84-83 victory over first-place Akron in front of 914 fans at Alumni Arena.

Mike McKie won the game with 6.1 seconds remaining after Louis Campbell tipped an Akron pass to him under the basket for an easy layup.

The win raised UB's record to 4-14 overall and 2-7 in the Mid-American Conference. It was only the second triumph for Witherspoon since taking over for Tim Cohane on Dec. 4.

Akron, coming off a major win over Kent, stumbled to 14-5, 8-2 in the East Division of the MAC.

"I'm really glad for the kids," Witherspoon said. "I'm glad to see them enjoy college basketball. It was getting to be a situation where they were starting to wonder if they can compete."

Witherspoon was most proud of the way the Bulls refused to lose.

"One of the things that makes it sweeter is that it wasn't a game where we were ahead the whole way and everything went our way," he said. "And it wasn't one where they (the Zips) were flat and we made some lucky shots.

"For a team that has been through everything we've been through, we played hard. Our guys could have said 'Here we go again. Let's pack it in.' We had to battle and scratch and claw, and that's good."

Campbell missed a potential game-winning basket with less than 10 seconds left and Akron's George Phillips grabbed the rebound.

But Campbell stayed with the play and tipped Phillips' outlet pass to McKie, who was defending down on the right block. The basket was point-blank.

"I thought the roof was going to blow off the place," Campbell said. "I thought Mike was going to hammer it in, but he just put it up there to be safe. I'll settle for that if it means the win."

McKie, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, wasn't sure if he had time to dunk.

"All I kept thinking is 'I gotta beat the clock. I gotta put it back up,' " he said. "That's all that was in my head."

McKie ended the game by blocking a shot under the basket by the Zips' Jami Bosley, who scored a team-high 18 points, all in the first half.

McKie finished with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks.

But the biggest player inside was 6-11 center Nikolai Alexeev, who scored a team-high 18 points, including 11 straight in the second half capped off by a three-pointer. He also grabbed eight rebounds.

Damien Foster and Alexei Vasiliev, behind several first-half three-pointers, scored 17 each.

The Bulls shot 11 of 23 overall from behind the arc.

The Bulls trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half and were down, 77-67, with 3:59 to play, but back-to-back three-pointers by Campbell and Foster brought the game within their reach.

The teams went point-for-point until Campbell stuck a 23-footer with 48 seconds remaining, cutting the Zips' lead to 83-82.

Bosley opened the door after Campbell's bomb when he drove the lane and dribbled the ball off his leg, giving UB the ball with 27.7 seconds left and setting up McKie's improbable bucket.

"Once we built that 11-point lead, we made decisions that were bad," Akron coach Dan Hipsher said.

"I'll have to look at the game film, but I just keep seeing these choices over and over in my head: sticking the ball on the floor, dribbling into two or three guys, blowing layup after layup.

"Sometimes you get what you deserve."

"It was crazy in the locker room," Campbell said of the aftermath. "This win right here, more than any other win, this is the one I think we can really really build on. Our guys can believe now."

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