Watt, Watson help Bulls sweep Zips
blog by Ben Tsujimoto • March 01, 2012 @ 10:23am
Behind Mitchell Watt’s 22 points and Tony Watson II’s six-for-six free throw shooting in the final minute, the UB Bulls won a colossal road game 74-70 over the conference-leading Akron Zips.
With the win, the Bulls (11-4) move to within one game back of Akron (12-3) for the MAC regular season crown with one game to play. Buffalo hosts the Bowling Green Falcons at 6 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Arena—a Bulls win combined with an Akron loss at Kent State would secure UB’s first season alone atop the Mid-American Conference.
One of the Bulls’ more criticized players by fans and media alike, Watson rose to the occasion late in the game as clutch three-pointers by Alex Abreu and Nikola Cvetinovic kept the Zips within a bucket twice in the final minute. Even though he’d only attempted 29 free throws this season, the Bulls’ backup point guard was hitting at a 90% clip—Watson is the team’s best free throw shooter, and Buffalo’s in-bounders did well to get him the ball on the team’s final three possessions.
For the few days leading up to Wednesday’s heroics, Watson’s health status was uncertain because of a calf strain that limited him to 13 minutes against Miami (OH). The incredibly confident junior guard, known for his love for slapping the floor on defense and the half-smirk, half-grin he employs regularly, buoyed that same confidence at the line late in the Bulls’ biggest road test of the season. He’s earned the trust of Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon, and that trust paid off Wednesday.
Here are the final meaningful match-ups of the MAC regular season:
Ohio (10-5) at Miami (OH), 7 p.m. Friday
Akron (12-3) at Kent State (10-5), 7 p.m. Friday
Eastern Michigan (9-6) at Toledo, 2 p.m. Saturday
Bowling Green (9-6) at Buffalo (11-4), 6 p.m. Saturday
The important takeaway is that Buffalo vs. BGSU is the final game of these four, meaning that the Bulls will know where the rest of the MAC stands before they play.
Best case scenario: Ohio loses against Miami (OH), Kent State holds home-court against reeling Akron and Eastern Michigan tops Toledo. If Buffalo wins, the Bulls will own the MAC regular season championship because they own the head-to-head tiebreaker over Akron by sweeping the Zips. UB would then play at 7 p.m. March 9 against the probable four or five seed in the MAC semis.
Worst case scenario: Ohio beats Miami (OH), Akron knocks off Kent State, EMU beats Toledo and UB loses to Bowling Green. Buffalo would finish in a three-way tie for second place with Ohio and Kent State, leading to the MAC’s multiple-team tie-breaker.
Buffalo’s combined record against Kent State and Ohio is 1-3; Kent State’s is 2-2 and Ohio’s is 3-1. The Bulls would then become the #4 seed in the MAC Tournament and play a quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. March 8.