Three OU basketball takeaways from one of Sooners biggest wins of season

Albert Cesare/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

There were seven Big 12 basketball games played on Saturday, but only two of the contests ended with the road team winning. The OU basketball men came away with one of them.

In fact, in 14 Big 12 matchups this past week, only four road teams prevailed. This brutal fact underscores how difficult it is to win on the road in the Big 12 and how it will ultimately end up separating the contenders from the pretenders in the conference standings.

Cincinnati may have been the most physical team the Sooners have faced all season, and the Bearcats had further motivation playing at home at Fifth Third Arena, where they had only lost once in a dozen outings this season.

"It was a gritty game. We made a bunch of big plays down the stretch, and so did they. A lot of things went into winning a game against a team that good."

OU head coach Porter Moser

At the head of Moser's list was the Sooners' ability to match Cincinnati's physicality and rebounding strength. "We were just trying to be relentless," he said. "We were trying to get some extra possessions."

Both teams struggled from the outset. The Sooners uncharacteristically missed their first five shots, and in the opening 12 minutes the two teams combined for 25 percent shooting on 9 of 35 field goal attempts. Five points was the biggest advantage in the first half, and except for a four-minute stretch midway through the second half in which OU stretched the lead to nine points, the margin was no greater than five or six points the rest of the way.

In the end, the Sooners were able to hold off a Cincinnati rally over the final two minutes, something that would not have happened in a road environment a year ago, to seal a 69-65 win and snap a two-game OU road losing streak in Big 12 action.

Siena transfer Javian McCollum led the Sooners with 16 points, 10 of which came in the first half. Cincinnati sixth-year senior John Newman III put the Bearcats on his back in the second half on Saturday, scoring all 14 of his points, including two huge three-point shots.

There were four ties and nine lead changes in the game before Oklahoma took control of the game in the second half.

Three takeaways from Oklahoma's giant road victory over Cincinnati

  • OU not only won the battle of the boards (42 to 36) but also grabbed more offensive rebounds (13 to 12), which led to 17 second-chance points.
  • Six different Sooners scored at least seven points in the game, including three in double digits (Javian McCollum, Oetga Oweh and John Hugely IV). Oklahoma also got a 28-point contribution from its reserves, which proved to be an important difference in the game.
  • Oklahoma took full advantage of its trips to the free-throw line. The Sooners were a perfect nine for nine at the charity stripe in the first half and finished 16 of 18 for the game, including four of four in the closing seconds.