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OU Basketball: No. 15 Oklahoma Survives Road Battle in Cincinnati

Rivaldo Soares sunk two massive free throws late to give the No. 15-ranked Sooners breathing room on the road on Saturday.

A slow first half didn’t deter Otega Oweh.

The Oklahoma sophomore made just one shot in the opening 20 minutes of the No. 15-ranked Sooners’ road trek to Cincinnati, but he was aggressive in a key stretch to give his team some breathing room.

After there was no separation in the first half, as both teams entered the intermission tied, Oweh went into attack mode out of the break.

First, he hit a smooth hook shot over the Bearcats’ size, then he stepped back and drew a foul on a 3-point attempt the next trip down.

Two possessions later, he drilled a shot from deep after play broke down and the Sooners wrangled a loose ball. Oweh’s triple put OU up by five, and while it was early in the second half, it gave the visitors the breathing room necessary to settle into the second half.

From there, the Sooners never relinquished the lead, escaping Cincinnati with a 69-65 win at the Fifth Third Arena on Saturday.

OU’s first road win since the conference slate pushed the Sooners to 15-3 overall and 3-2 in the Big 12, while the Bearcats fell to 13-5 overall and 2-3 in league play.

Final Box Score 

Final Box Score 

Even with Oweh’s early scoring burst, the second half game down to the wire.

John Newman III hit his second 3-pointer of the day for Cincinnati with 4:07 left in the game, cutting OU’s advantage to three points and ensuring the home crowd would be locked into the game for the duration.

Neither team could buy a bucket until John Hugley IV backed down into the paint and hit a difficult jumper while falling down into the paint, extending Oklahoma’s advantage back to five with 2:36 left.

The Sooners then locked in, getting a stop and Oweh emerged once again.

Javian McCollum drove the lane, drawing the attention of the Bearcat defense, but the talented guard didn’t try to hit a circus shot himself. Instead, Oweh's rotation down put him in the perfect position to grab McCollum's toss off the glass and deliver a massive dunk to push the lead back to seven. 

Still, OU had to survive one last gasp.

Oweh missed a free throw with 20 second left, giving the ball back to Cincinnati down three points.

The Bearcats burned a timeout with 14 seconds on the clock, setting up for one last possession.

Instead of getting a clean look, Simas Lukosius drove and Milos Uzan fouled, putting the Bearcats at the line for a pair of shots.

Lukosius made the first, but he missed the second and Rivaldo Soares pulled down the key rebound.

Soares sunk both shots at the other end, pushing the lead back to four with six seconds left.

Aziz Bandaogo tipped in an inbounds lob to extend the game, but Le’Tre Darthard hit two final free throws to seal OU’s win.

The stretch run for the Sooners was indicative of the second half at large. They got contributions from up and down the roster, including 14 combined points from Hugley and Darthard off the bench to pair with Soares’ late free throws, as well as six points, two rebounds and a steal from McCollum, two points, three boards and two assists from Uzan and four points and five rebounds from Jalon Moore to close out the road win.

McCollum ended with 16 total points, while Oweh also added 14 points and Hugley finished with 11.

Crucially, Oklahoma held its own on the boards against an excellent rebounding team. The Sooners outrebounded the Bearcats 41-34, and notched four more second-chance points than Cincinnati.

After escaping with the victory, Oklahoma will return to the Lloyd Noble Center to take on Texas on Tuesday night.