"Rebounds, deflections and heart," said sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick. "In the last six minutes, we had 18 deflections. We grinded out that win. That is what UC basketball is about."
The competition stepped up, and the shooting percentage fell drastically as Cincinnati's new four-guard offense hit a speed bump Thursday, but the Bearcats toughed out a 56-55 victory over Oklahoma.
Technically, however, it was Cincinnati's five-guard attack that put Cincinnati over the top. With UC trailing by 12 points with 6:31 remaining, the Bearcats embarked on the type of run that can define a season.
The comeback trail started at a place that has caused Cincinnati some heartache this season, the free throw line. Coming into the game, the Bearcats were hitting on just 61 percent from the line. However down the stretch, they connected on 13-of-14. Jaquon Parker was 6-of-6 in the final four minutes.
Hitting from the charity stripe was imperative for Cincinnati as it shot 2-of-6 from the field during a five-minute stretch that the Bearcats outscored Oklahoma 14-2.
With Cincinnati playing smaller and making free throws, the Bearcats full-court pressure seemingly help turn the tide.
"We didn't have possession late we like to have had," said Oklahoma head coach Lon Kruger. "We had a few looks down stretch that didn't fall as a result we didn't get the job done."
Quite simply some of the same shots that were falling for Cincinnati in the previous three games rimmed out, and without any contributions from the front court – the Bearcats found enough to overcome the 9-2 Sooners.
"We were getting some good shot, we were just missing them," said senior Dion Dixon.
SANDERS AT THE FIVE: For the last nine minutes of the game, freshman Jermaine Sanders played the "center" position. Justin Jackson, who played only 13 minutes due to foul trouble, was on the bench after fouling out and Kelvin Gaines wasn't playing well. So, Cronin turned to Sanders.
SK ON THE BOARD: At times, the biggest player on the court for Cincinnati was the 6-5 Sanders. If the height-challenged Bearcats were going to compete on the boards, it would have to be a team effort. Sophomore guard Sean Kilpatrick led the way with a career-high 10 boards, besting his previous high of nine earlier this season against Alabama State.
ATTENDANCE: Cincinnati fans have been killing the Bearcats' non-conference schedule. They have pointed to the soft schedule for reasons that the attendance hasn't been very good. Oklahoma came into the game 9-1 and a legit Big 12 team, however, only 4,493 showed up. It was the smallest crowd of the season.
However, Cronin was thrilled with the acoustic level of the bunch as Cincinnati embarked on its comeback.
"It felt like we had 15,000," said Cronin. "It was a great feeling that kind of energy for our kids."