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UC holds off SMU for win despite poor shooting day

DALLAS, Texas — It was 64 degrees in Dallas when the Cincinnati Bearcats tipped it off at Moody Coliseum. Inside, the Mustang rims were ice cold. Neither UC nor SMU's squad had a stellar shooting day worthy of any of the TV highlight shows. In the end, it came down to SMU missing a half-court heave and UC escaping with a 54-52 win.

The Bearcats were scoreless over the final 3:37 and still won.

Mika Adams-Woods and Landers Nolley II were the exceptions for the Bearcats Saturday afternoon. Both hit key shots on a day when many of the Bearcats struggled to find the basket. Both finished with 16 points with Nolley achieving his third American Athletic Conference double-double by pulling down 12 rebounds.

They combined to go 13-for-24 from the field while the rest of the squad was just 9-of-41. UC did outshoot SMU 33.8% to 31.9%.

"We found a way to win tonight," UC coach Wes Miller said. " It wasn't pretty. Some of the execution down the stretch was poor, but anytime your team finds a way to win on the road, you're going to be pleased with that. Especially in January."

Landers Nolley II had 16 points and 12 rebounds, his third AAC double-double, Saturday at SMU.
Landers Nolley II had 16 points and 12 rebounds, his third AAC double-double, Saturday at SMU.

On the glass, UC was dominant. On top of Nolley's 12 rebounds, Viktor Lakhin and Ody Oguama each had 10 rebounds and Jeremiah Davenport added nine. UC outrebounded the Mustangs 52-41.

"Coach has been emphasizing that when I crash the boards and get more rebounds, the better for our team," Nolley said. "I told them from now on, I'll try to get 10 boards every game."

The Bearcats are now 11-1 when beating a foe on the boards. Lakhin was dominant swatting basketballs away, finishing with eight blocks. The eighth stopped SMU from possibly tying the game. It also was the second-most blocks by an NCAA Division I player this season. The last Bearcat to record eight blocks in a game was Eric Hicks 17 years ago.

"His rim presence is incredible," Miller said. "He's continuing to improve defensively. Around the basket, he was tremendous for our team."

Said Nolley, " I just love him. I feel like we have one of the best big men in the country!"

Zach Nutall scored 13 points to lead SMU, while top scorer Zhuric Phelps was held to 11. Both shot just 5-of-17 from the field.

"These types of games on the road are gritty," Adams-Woods said. "You've got to play extra hard. Everyone had that mentality (of) next play and we've got to do it on the defensive end. We just had that toughness, that Cincinnati toughness."

UC improves to 13-6 and 4-2 in the American Athletic Conference while SMU drops to 6-12 and 1-4 in the league. They were coming off recent losses at Houston and UCF where they scored only 53 points. Their 52 Saturday was a season-low. Miller's men are 7-1 when holding opponents below 60.

At the first media timeout, SMU was shooting 14% and UC 11% and it was 2-2. UC's second bucket didn't come until the game was nearly six minutes old.

Nine minutes into the game, Adams-Woods had made all three of his shots, while his teammates were a combined 1-for-13. David DeJulius didn't get into the scorebook until there was 2:38 left in the first half. He hit a 3-pointer and was fouled and made the free throw. It was UC's biggest lead of the half at 29-22. The Mustangs then scored the final five points of the stanza and trailed by two going to the locker room.

The Mustangs took their first lead since early in the game on a Zach Nutall trey but the Bearcats answered with an 8-0 run, all while Lakhin was on the bench with three fouls.

UC extended its lead to seven again, but the Mustangs continued to answer despite an overwhelming deficit on the glass. Lakhin blocked numerous shots only to have the Bearcats not convert on the other end. Adams-Woods provided breathing room with consecutive 3-pointers only to see the Mustangs scrap back.

"My teammates are giving me the confidence," Adams-Woods said. "They're telling me to keep shooting. It's just going in, you know?"

UC's biggest lead of the afternoon was seven, while SMU twice led the game by two.

"My favorite wins as a coach are when you can't throw it in the ocean, you turn it over 17 times, but you guard and you rebound well enough to win the game," Miller said. "That shows the character of the team. We got the ball down around the basket quite a bit, we just weren't able to convert."

Mika Adams-Woods (3) and Landers Nolley II each had 16 points Saturday vs. SMU.
Mika Adams-Woods (3) and Landers Nolley II each had 16 points Saturday vs. SMU.

UC now leads the series against the Mustangs 18-6 and has won 16-of-21 of their AAC match-ups. This was UC's final visit to the Moody Coliseum for the foreseeable future. The game drew 3,817 fans including former Bearcats Jason Maxiell and Mike "Rock" Reichenecker, both Texas residents.

The Bearcats are back on the road Wednesday night in Tampa against South Florida.

From Cougar to Bearcat

Before Saturday's basketball game, the Cincinnati football team announced the commitment of Washington State transfer Donovan Ollie. Ollie is 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, and is from Texas. He was the No. 3 receiver for the Cougars this past season with 43 catches for 491 yards and three scores. He started in 24 of 28 games for the Cougars during his career.

Back-to-back

The University of Cincinnati cheerleading squad made it back-to-back national championships Saturday taking another Division IA title in Orlando. The head coach/Director of Spirit Programs is Tabby Fagan who has led the program since 1994. She was a cheerleader for UC during their Final Four basketball run in 1992.

The Cincinnati Bearcat mascot also took gold at the event.

CINCINNATI 29 25 54

SMU 27 25 52

UC - Lakhin 3 0 6 Oguama 2 1 5 Nolley 7 0 16 Adams-Woods 6 0 16 DeJulius 1 1 4 Davenport 1 0 2 Skillings 2 1 5

SMU - Williamson 4 0 8 Odigie 5 0 10 Phelps 5 1 11 Smith 1 0 3 Nutall 5 1 13 Todorovic 1 0 3 Ambrose-Hulton 1 0 2 Lanier 0 2 2

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: UC basketball gets a road win at SMU despite shooting woes