Oklahoma basketball: Takeaways from a gutsy Sooner comeback win in OT

Mar 5, 2024; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Le'Tre Darthard (0) drives to the basket against Cincinnati. Darthard led the Sooners with 18 points in a game won by Oklahoma 74-71 in overtime.
Mar 5, 2024; Norman, Oklahoma, USA; Oklahoma Sooners guard Le'Tre Darthard (0) drives to the basket against Cincinnati. Darthard led the Sooners with 18 points in a game won by Oklahoma 74-71 in overtime. / Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Playing without their top scorer and trailing by 10 midway through the second half, the Oklahoma basketball men pulled some Sooner Magic out of the hat and willed the Sooners to a 74-71 home win over Cincinnati on Tuesday night.

Takeaways from an OU win that looked otherwise for most of the game

  • Oklahoma won this game at the three-point line and with second-half three-point shooting. The Sooners were 21 of 23 at the charity stripe in the second half and shot 50 percent in the second 20 minutes, going three of six from deep. The Sooners shot 34 free throws in the game, 23 more than Cincinnati.
  • "It was one of the gutsiest performances I've seen under the circumstances," said Porter Moser in his postgame interview session. "In nine days, we played three of the most physical teams in the country (at Iowa State, Houston and Cincinnati). Then they found out they lose Javian (McCollum), then (Milos Uzan) fouls out. We're playing with no point guard."
  • With its leading scorer (and 14.3 points) out of the game, Oklahoma definitely needed others to step up. Le'Tre Darthard and Rivaldo Soares, who were coming off the Sooner bench for most of the season, answered the call. Darthard scored 18 points, including a giant three-pointer with 15 seconds remaining in the game to give OU a 67-66 lead. Soares scored 16. In the last five games, he has averaged 15.6 per game.
  • The Sooners scored 21 points off of eight offensive rebounds. Unfortunately, that was offset by the 24 points Cincinnati scored off of 15 OU turnovers.
  • Oklahoma shot just 32 percent in the second half. Normally that would not be good enough to pull out a win. The frequent Sooner trips to the foul line, timely three-point shooting in the second half and holding Cincinnati to a field goal percentage of 34 percent in the second 20 minutes enabled OU to mount a late comeback and avoid the upset.

Game highlights

The Sooners played without starter Javian McCollum, who reportedly injured his shoulder during practice, and fell behind early. Cincinnati scored the first seven points in the game and led by as many as 13 before Oklahoma went on a 17-6 run to close the final eight minutes of the first half and briefly took a 27-26 lead before the Bearcats ended the half on a field goal to retake a 28-27 advantage at halftime.

It was quite a turnaround from the Sooners' 45-point first-half performance against top-ranked Houston on Saturday.

Cincinnati continued to apply the pressure in the second half and again appeared to be the better team coming out after halftime. The Bearcats slowly widened the advantage, and at three different times in the first eight minutes of the second stanza they led by 10 points. The Bearcats held a 45-35 lead with 11:02 remaining in the game.

Over the next four minutes, Oklahoma orchestrated an 18-8 run to draw even at 53 with 6:16 left to go in regulation. Eleven of the Sooners 18 points during that stretch were from the free-throw line. Three different times a Bearcat defender fouled a three-point Oklahoma shooter. Le'Tre Darthard was six for six and Sooner reserve Maks Klansjscek was three of three from the line.

The game was nip and tuck over the final six minutes. With Cincinnati leading 66-64, the Bearcats' John Newman III missed a layup attempt, turning the ball over to OU with 40 seconds remaining. Jalon Moore missed a layup, but the Sooners were able to come up with the rebound and Darthard hit a three-pointer with 15 seconds left to give Oklahoma just its second lead in the game, 67-66.

Cincinnati's big man Aziz Bandaogo was fouled by Sam Godwin with three seconds left and went to the free-throw line with a chance to win the game, but he missed the first and made the second, tying the game. Otega Oweh missed a two-point shot outside the paint, sending the game into an extra session.

The Sooners jumped out in front in the overtime on a dunk by Godwin and trailed just once in the five-time extra session. A pair of free throws by Darthard, two of his game high 18 in the game, gave OU a 74-71 lead. A three-point attempt by Cincinnati's Simas Lukosius was off the mark at the buzzer, and the Sooners survived.

This was a game that many experts felt Oklahoma needed to win to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after a three-year absence. ESPN's Joe Lunardi had the Sooners as a 10 seed entering the game with Cincinnati. With the win, OU improved to 20-10 overall and 8-9 in the Big 12.

Oklahoma closes out the regular season on Saturday with a game against archrival Texas in Austin.