PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Romeo Travis scored 26 points and Nick Dials hit a series of key baskets down the stretch after Akron nearly squandered an early 18-point lead against slumping Duquesne, and the Zips pulled away late for an 87-74 victory Monday night.
Akron (22-6), badly needing a win to stay in contention for an NCAA tournament spot even if it doesn't win the Mid-American Conference tournament, relied on Travis' strong play inside to open a 21-3 lead with 7 1/2 minutes gone.
The Zips won their 13th in 15 games, but not without a scare from a Duquesne team that is 10-17 and has lost six in a row yet has staged a number of comebacks. The Dukes have won six times after trailing by 10 or more points and nearly overcame a 22-point deficit before losing to St. Bonaventure 97-94 on Saturday.
Kieron Achara scored 18 points and Scott Grote added 13, but Duquesne was hurt by an ineffective game from Robert Mitchell, its leading scorer with a 16.7 average. Mitchell missed his 11 shots and ended with one point.
The game looked to be a rout early, with Akron scoring 15 points in a row over a five-minute span to take a 21-3 lead. Dials, a former Ohio State player, keyed the run with a 3-pointer and a layup while Travis was frustrating Duquesne at both ends of the court before finishing with six blocked shots and 11 rebounds.
Trailing by so many points so early caused Duquesne coach Ron Everhart to scrap the two-platoon, fast-breaking system that allowed the Dukes to average 91.7 points over their previous 11 games. Almost as soon as they went with a more conventional rotation, the Dukes went on an run that got them to within 27-21.
But whenever the Dukes would get back into the game, the Zips answered. They scored nine points in a row to end the first half and start the second and took a 45-32 lead they built to 15 points at 56-41, then held off Duquesne's final comeback after the Dukes went on a 12-0 run.
Travis scored inside after Duquesne had closed to within one point at 66-65, then converted a three-point play with 6:39 to play that made it 73-65. Dials, who scored a career-high 23 points, followed that with a baseline jumper and hit a 3-pointer that stretched it to 78-70 with 3 1/2 minutes to go. Dials' previous career high was 17 points.