'You just find a way together on the road': UC Bearcats escape with win at Wichita State

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The Wichita State Shockers played the Cincinnati Bearcats with all the mettle you'd expect from a team looking to avoid dropping to 0-4 in conference play on its home court..

Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Mike Saunders Jr. (3) looks for an opening during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers at Charles Koch Arena.
Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Mike Saunders Jr. (3) looks for an opening during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers at Charles Koch Arena.

Cincinnati was still good enough on Sunday to out-grit Wichita State and keep it winless in the American Athletic Conference.

A back-and-forth affair down the stretch saw UC take the lead at Charles Koch Arena and keep it for good at 58-57 with 2:16 to play.

The Bearcats held the Shockers scoreless over the final 2:32 and hung on for a 61-57 win.

David DeJulius rebounded from a scoreless second half on Wednesday against East Carolina with 18 points on 7-for-13 shooting against Wichita State. It was his basket at the 2:16 mark that ended up being the decisive score.

Hayden Koval was also active offensively as he scored 13 points – his best scoring night since transferring to UC for the 2021-22 season from UNC-Greensboro – on 4-for-6 shooting with three 3-pointers.

The game followed Koval's eight point showing against ECU, which was a personal best for him with the Bearcats at the time.

"I just keep working on my shot and I keep getting in the gym," Koval said. "It felt good in warmups and the ball got my way, and I just let it fly."

UC improved to 13-5 overall and 3-2 in the AAC, where it now sits in joint-fourth place.

Afterward, ESPN commentators lauded the Bearcats for the road win, and its value to UC's overall resume.

The Shockers dropped to 9-7 overall. Only Wichita State and Tulsa are 0-4 in the AAC.

Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Jeremiah Davenport (24) plays for the ball during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers  at Charles Koch Arena.
Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats guard Jeremiah Davenport (24) plays for the ball during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers at Charles Koch Arena.

Wichita State was led offensively by Tyson Etienne's 14 points. Ricky Council IV and Morris Udeze contributed 11 and 12 points, respectively.

The Bearcats went into halftime trailing, 31-28, shooting 32% and getting out-rebounded. At that point, UC head coach Wes Miller said he started to prepare his team for what would surely be a challenging second half.

"I told them at halftime, these are my favorite types of games because it's not gonna be easy tonight," Miller said. "It's not gonna be a rhythm game. Nobody's gonna have great numbers tonight. We're not gonna get clean defensive rebounds and get easy shots in transition. We're gonna have to grind it out. We're gonna have to stick together. We're gonna have to withstand runs and withstand a hostile environment, and when you figure out how to do that as a group, you take a step.

"It's the best feeling I think you can have as a coach when you do that and it just wasn't easy, it wasn't simple but you just find a way together on the road so I'm really proud of our team. I think we took a step tonight in terms of sticking together when it gets difficult."

Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward John Newman III (15) puts up a shot during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers  at Charles Koch Arena.
Jan 12, 2022; Wichita, Kansas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats forward John Newman III (15) puts up a shot during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers at Charles Koch Arena.

After trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, UC went on a 6-0 run going into halftime. Then John Newman III knocked down a 3-pointer to knot the game coming out of the intermission. That set the stage for the tightly contested 19-plus minutes to come.

The teams seesawed back and forth on the scoreboard. The Shockers led for 27 minutes in the game but UC found an opening to interrupt the hosts' time in front.

Jeremiah Davenport's only bucket of the game put UC in front, 53-51, at the 6:34 mark of the second half.

A Koval 3-pointer put UC back in front at 56-55 at the 3:05 mark.

Then UC locked down defensively, and forced WSU to sputter on 1-for-8 shooting to finish the game.

The game marked the second-consecutive win for UC in which its defense was featured late. Both wins, including Wednesday's victory against East Carolina, came after the Bearcats were unable to get stops when leading with less than a minute to play against the Memphis Tigers.

"I think just going into those games, especially after the Memphis games, there was like a sense of urgency. Like, 'alright we need to focus on the defensive end.' We did that in practice and I feel like if we keep going, we'll get results like we did the last two games."

After playing five AAC contests since Jan. 1, UC's conference schedule slows down with just three games over the next two weeks.

The Bearcats are scheduled to host Tulsa on Thursday (9 p.m.) before traveling to Temple University on Jan. 25 and East Carolina on Jan. 30.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Wichita State Shockers: UC gets AAC road win

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