Cincinnati remains undefeated, but Oklahoma made the Bearcats work for a 66-56 All-College win Saturday night at Oklahoma City Arena.
On a night senior leader Cade Davis was 1-of-10 from the field, and OU shot 33.3 percent, you would expect a blowout loss. The Sooners, though, stayed within striking range much of the game in front of an announced doubleheader crowd of 10,625.
â€œHanging around with a team that's undefeated when we're not making any shots at all, that shows other aspects of our game are getting better,â€ Davis said. â€œI don't think we'll have another game this year we shoot this bad.â€
Off to its best start in six years, Cincinnati (10-0) trailed only once early in the game, but the Bearcats had to withstand a couple of OU second-half runs. UC drained a dozen free throws the final five minutes to seal the win.
â€œWhenever you win by 10 and don't play particularly well you have to be happy,â€ said Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin. â€œBut give Oklahoma some credit for that. I thought their defense was pretty good. ... That's as well as we've been defended in a while.â€
Getting good shots was a challenge against a suffocating Cincinnati defense that contested nearly every pass. The encouraging sign for the Sooners (5-6) was their recent trend of playing good defense kept the game competitive.
During a five-game losing streak, OU's opponents shot over 50 percent. But the past three games, the Sooners' defense has been much improved.
The difference was a much deeper Cincinnati roster outscored the Sooners 16-3 in bench points and 22-15 on points off turnovers.
â€œWe try to really pressure defensively,â€ Cronin said. â€œThey did a good job. They only turned it over 13 times. And our bench was a big factor in the game.â€
Led by a game-high 15 points from point guard Carl Blair, OU never led in the final 35 minutes but twice got close.
The Sooners closed to within 28-27 in the opening minutes of the second half. Twice they had opportunities to take the lead. But like much of the game, they couldn't knock down a shot.
OU rallied to within 39-36 midway through the second half, but a 9-0 Cincinnati run pushed the lead to 48-36. The Sooners twice cut the deficit to five points but would never get closer.
â€œWe're playing with more urgency,â€ Davis said. â€œWe don't determine how we play on how many shots we make or how many points we're putting up. We're not that type of team. We have to make sure our defense continues to get better.â€
The Sooners trailed 28-21 at halftime. The deficit could have been much larger, considering the Sooners shot 28.6 percent the first half, including 10 percent (1-of-10) beyond the arc.
â€œI'm not too happy when I miss a lot of shots like that,â€ Davis said. â€œIt's not that I'm not getting my points. It's not helping my team out, especially when I'm getting open looks. I want to help the team as much as I can. And I know I can make those shots.â€