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UB keeps alive hope of earning No. 1 seed

AKRON, Ohio -- Tony Watson made six straight free throws in the final 55 seconds Wednesday night to nail down a 74-70 victory for the University at Buffalo over Akron in Rhodes Arena.

The victory by the Bulls (18-9, 11-4 MAC) assured them of a bye into the quarterfinals of the Mid-American Conference tournament next week and kept alive their hopes of finishing first overall in the regular season standings and gaining the No. 1 seed.

The Bulls, who trailed by four (38-34) at the half, shot 63.6 percent (14 of 22) in the second half. They built a 68-62 lead on a pair of baskets by Mitchell Watt and a three by Watson, then held off the Zips -- just barely.

Akron closed to 68-67 on a three-pointer by Alex Abreu before Watson nailed it down His final pair of free throws came with 12.6 seconds left.

It was the Bulls first win in Rhodes since the 2008-09 season and gave them a sweep of first-place Akron. If the Zips should lose at Kent State on Friday and UB wins its Saturday night game against Bowling Green, the No. 1 seed would go to the Bulls in a tiebreaker.

"Our guys really fought to the end," said UB coach Reggie Witherspoon. "They persevered in a tough environment. They came in locked in and showed great energy and great poise down the stretch."

Watt had 22 points to lead UB, which shot 29 of 56 for the game. Watson finished with a career-high 14 and Javon McCrea had 13.

Abreu had a season high 15 for Akron, Demetrius Treadwell added 11 and Brian Walsh 10.

The outcome ended Akron's 14-game home winning streak against MAC opponents. The Zips only home loss this season was to VCU, a Final Four team last March.

Akron's last lead was 62-61 when Abreu made three free throws after he was fouled on a trey.

MAC standings on Page D5