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Sooners carrying momentum, perfect Big 12 record, into first meeting with Cincy

Jan. 5—Over the last two games, Oklahoma appears to have put a rough month of December behind it as it looks for the program's first 3-0 start in conference play since the 2016-17 season.

On Wednesday, the Sooners overcame a slow shooting night to hold off BYU on the road in a 75-63 win. They also held the Cougars to 29% shooting, which was the lowest the Sooners have allowed since head coach Jennie Baranczyk joined the program.

They'll host a Cincinnati team on Saturday at noon that's still looking for its first win in the Big 12. The game will be televised on ESPN+.

The Sooners are holding opponents to 37% shooting this season which is fifth in a stacked Big 12 Conference. They also lead the league in rebounds, averaging 46.62 per game.

Their rebounding advantage hasn't come from any one player. Six different players have led the team in rebounding in a game this season and five players have reached double-digit rebounds at some point this season.

Skylar Vann has led the way on the boards with 7.2 rebounds per game (11th in the Big 12). Sahara Williams (6.0) and Payton Verhulst (5.6) are each averaging over five rebounds per game as well.

Four of the Sooners' five losses came in games where they were outrebounded by their opponent and they're 0-4 in those games.

The Bearcats could make things difficult with 6-1 forward Jillian Hayes, who's averaging just over eight rebounds per game. She notched her fifth double-double of the season in a loss to West Virginia earlier this week.

Hayes has been asked to take over the No. 5 spot for the Bearcats with sophomore center Malea Williams missing time with injury. During Cincinnati's conference opener it had three starters missing due to injury, which is bad news for a team already projected to finish second-to-last in the preseason Big 12 poll.

This is the first all-time meeting between the two schools and they'll meet again on Feb. 20 in Cincinnati.

Saturday's contests wraps up a three-game stretch to begin conference play against three Big 12 newcomers. The Sooners will then go on the road to face Kansas State next Saturday.

Tarik Masri is the sports editor for The Transcript covering OU athletics and area sports. You can reach him by emailing tarik@normantranscript.com