Cincinnati Bearcats bounce back with AAC win against Tulsa Golden Hurricane

Though coming off some of its better basketball, the University of Cincinnati got its first win in two weeks Wednesday night at Fifth Third Arena. The Bearcats didn't have a banner shooting night to tip off February but sent enough down the cylinder for the 81-55 victory over Tulsa.

They countered a 38.2% effort from the field to start by hitting 54.5% in the second half for the 26-point advantage at the buzzer.

Landers Nolley II achieved his fourth double-double of the season, all in American Athletic Conference games. It wasn't the best night for the AAC's top 3-point marksman but good enough to earn another post-game appearance in the media room.

Nolley's number on the night was 13. He has now had 13 straight games in double figures after finishing with 13 points and a career-high 13 rebounds. On Wednesday, 5-for-16 from the field and 2-of-7 on threes still resulted in a positive result.

"Honestly, I've been feeling terrible," Nolley said, partly in jest. "Tonight it just felt like I was just running suicides (sprints). I just need to get in the gym and run some suicides. I didn't do much tonight but rebound."

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Cincinnati Bearcats guard Landers Nolley II (2) saves the ball in the second half of the NCAA men’s basketball game at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Tulsa Golden Hurricane 81-55.
Cincinnati Bearcats guard Landers Nolley II (2) saves the ball in the second half of the NCAA men’s basketball game at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. Cincinnati Bearcats defeated Tulsa Golden Hurricane 81-55.

UC coach Wes Miller still is bullish on Nolley's ability.

"He's a double-double guy all of a sudden," Miller said. "It's pretty neat and he can rebound even better. Landers Nolley's ability as a player, we haven't seen anything yet. I believe he's capable of being one of the best players in the world at his position. I believe he's that gifted."

For the first time since the Dec. 29 win over Tulane, the Bearcats had five players in double figures. Senior Jeremiah Davenport had his best game since Wichita State with 20 points, hitting 4-of-8 from the arc.

"I always feel it coming," Davenport said of his shot. "Even if I'm not hitting at first, something's going to hit to get me going. It'll always come around for sure."

David DeJulius added 11 points and nine assists, and Mika Adams-Woods and Viktor Lakhin each had 10 points. A missed dunk by Dan Skillings Jr. late would have made it six players in double figures.

Tulsa came into the game holding teams to less than 30% behind the arc. The Golden Hurricane actually led with 9:39 to go in the first half, but UC began to find range late in the stanza to separate. In the end, they would shoot 9-for-28 from distance for the game for 32.1%.

Sam Griffin paced the Golden Hurricane with 15 points.

Lethargic start

After draining eight first-half triples and 11 overall last Saturday at No. 3 Houston, the clank-meter was out for both teams on the perimeter to start. With 7:09 left in the half, Nolley broke the seal, which put both teams at 1-for-13 at the time.

It did inspire the Bearcats as they followed with a steal and an eventual tip dunk by Lakhin, forcing a Tulsa timeout with UC on an 11-0 run and up 24-14. The UC streak would go to 16-0 as the Golden Hurricane didn't score for over seven minutes. At the same time, UC went on a scoring drought of nearly three minutes.

Davenport hit a pair of treys to give UC the 36-18 advantage late in the first half.

"I thought our defense fueled our offense," Miller said. "We got live ball stops. We were able to get out and run. We were sharing the ball. I thought that kind of broke the game open."

The Hurricane wouldn't hit their first 3-pointer until early in the second half. After hitting a paltry 21.4% of their shots in the first half, Tulsa's players picked it up in the second, cutting UC's lead to 14 at one point.

UC would hit four of their last five shots and hold Tulsa scoreless in the final 2:08 of the contest.

The Bearcats improved to 15-8 (6-4 AAC) while Tulsa dropped to 5-16 (1-9 AAC). UC is three wins away from last year's season total of 18 victories and focused on not being in the same predicament as last year entering the AAC tournament. The Bearcats last year dropped five straight going into the conference tourney and eight of 10 from February until the end of the season.

"We've just got to keep going and we will," Davenport said.

UC could get Quadrant 2 win this weekend

The Bearcats are back home at noon Saturday against Central Florida with the possibility of a Quadrant 2 win. The Golden Knights coming into Wednesday had a No 73 RPI (Ratings Percentage Index) and were No. 66 in the NCAA NET rankings. A home win versus a team ranked No. 31-75 would qualify as a Quadrant 2 victory. The Bearcats have yet to record a Quadrant 1 or 2 win.

Selebangue on the boards

Tulsa's 6-foot-8 Bryant Selebangue came in leading the AAC in rebounding with 9.3 per game. He lived up to his billing by grabbing 10 before the half. Selebangue would finish with a game-high 15 boards but the Bearcats would win the team margin 44-32. UC's Nolley had hoped for 15 but had to settle for a season-best 13.

"Coach just told me I needed to use my size for something other than scoring and defending," Nolley said. "My goal tonight was 15, I'm not going to lie. It's a good thing I got a career-high in rebounds, I played terrible.'

Nolley says he's talked with his teammates about his board ability.

"I just talk junk to them in the locker room because they're so much bigger than me," Nolley said. "I just get all of them. It's a mentality. I just pick at them, calling them soft. Now they're trying to steal all my rebounds, that's why I couldn't get 15 tonight."

Said Miller, "Every good team has to value defending and rebounding. Sometimes it doesn't feel like you take a step forward every day but you feel like over two weeks you took a step forward. This team to this point has trended the right way in the rebounding category. It needs to continue if we're going to continue to improve as a group."


TULSA 18 37 55

UC - Lakin 5 0 10 Oguama 1 0 2 Nolley 5 1 13 Adams-Woods 4 1 10 DeJulius 4 2 111 Skillings 4 0 9 Davenport 6 4 20 Ezikple 2 2 6

T - Dalger 4 0 8 Selebangue 1 6 8 Griffin 5 4 15 Pritchard 4 4 12 McWright 0 1 1 Gaston-Chapman 2 0 4 Betson 2 0 5 Embery-Simpson 0 2 2

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati basketball rolls past Tulsa in AAC conference win