St. Ambrose struggled from the line in the second half but did enough down the stretch to hold off Viterbo 79-76 in an important Midwest Collegiate Conference game Wednesday night in Lee Lohman Arena.
The win allowed the Bees (19-7, 8-2 MCC) to keep sole possession of first place in the MCC race, a game in front Clarke (16-10, 7-3 MCC), and setting up a crucial home next next Wednesday night against the Crusaders. William Penn (6-3 MCC) is a game-and-a-half back.
But it didn't come easy.
After knocking down 8-of-9 free throws in the first half, St. Ambrose was just 6-of-13 from the line in the second half that allowed the V-Hawks to trim a 13-point deficit with 6:36 remaining to a three-point game with a minute left.
That's when the Bees regained their form. SAU got a defensive stop and Sam Ainsworth hit a pair to extend the lead to 76-61. Seconds later, Tylon Deal converted 1-of-2 to push the lead to 77-73. Then after Deal forced a turnover along the sideline, Ainsworth sealed the win with two more free throws. Viterbo (14-12, 5-4 MCC) hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the scoring.
Nick Frazier and Deal were nearly unstoppable. Frazier hit 7-of-10 from the floor in finishing with a game-high 21 points. He was 4-of-6 from beyond the arc as SAU hit eight of its 12 3-point attempts. Deal was 7-of-15 to finish with 20 points. Darren Galloway continued his strong play in MCC action with 12 points, which included a big 3-pointer in the final three minutes. Darian White added 8 points and a team-best 7 rebounds.
Frazier also reached a milestone in the win. His first basket of the night gave him 1,500 points in his career and he ended the night 12th on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,519 points. (Video of the milestone basket, courtesy SAUtv)
With the conference season coming down to the wire, the Bees will step out of MCC play to host No. 21 Ashford Saturday at 3 p.m.