After getting thumped Sunday at Houston, the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team got back to what it loves most: Close games.
Mika Adams-Woods forced a late turnover and Jeremiah Davenport capitalized by making the game-winning layup with 12.6 seconds left, as the Bearcats escaped Tulsa with a 70-69 win Wednesday to spoil the Golden Hurricane's senior night.
"I told them after the game, 'There's nothing wrong with winning by 10 or 15,' because at this point in the game, I'd like to sit down and just watch the last two minutes. But for some reason we're just not there yet."
On the next possession for the Golden Hurricane, 7-foot-1 senior center Chris Vogt stepped up defensively, causing Tulsa senior guard Darien Jackson to miss a layup and allowing the Bearcats to hold on for the victory.
The win marked the sixth game this season for Cincinnati that was decided by one possession. The Bearcats' last five wins have ended by a combined margin of 10 points.
"It goes back to character," UC coach John Brannen said. "The character of our young men and their toughness. Each time we've had to answer the bell, they've done that, particularly since we've been out of our pause."
Cincinnati (8-8, 6-5) improve to 5-1 since its 25-day layoff due to COVID-19 protocols.
The Bearcats got back in the win column after having their four-game winning streak snapped Sunday in a 38-point loss at Houston.
The victory also avenged Cincinnati's 70-66 loss to Tulsa on Jan. 2 at Fifth Third Arena.
With the win, UC takes over sole possession of fifth place in the AAC standings. The top five teams get a first-round bye in the AAC tournament.
Keith Williams finished with a game-high 24 points and six assists and Davenport added 14 points and seven rebounds to lead Cincinnati, which survived a Golden Hurricane (10-10, 7-8) team that entered the night being outscored by its opponents by 50 points in the first half but outscoring its foes by 92 points after intermission.
UC shot just 8-for-17 from the free throw line.
After a 1-for-10 start from the field and committing four turnovers in their first six possessions, the Bearcats battled back from an early 15-3 deficit on the strength of sharp shooting by freshman Mason Madsen.
The 6-foot-4 guard made his first three 3-pointers off the bench and managed to single-handedly force the Hurricane out of their 3-2 zone defense. He finished with nine points.
"That was huge," Brannen said. "He was able to stabilize us and keep us in the game and get a lead. And then every time he came in after that, they had to go man. He was able to space the floor for the other guys to make plays."
The Bearcats outrebounded Tulsa 41-32, including a 16-5 advantage on the offensive glass, and outscored the Hurricane 16-2 on second-chance points.
Cincinnati is scheduled to host Tulane on Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. on ESPN+.
An increased count of about 1,135 fans will be inside Fifth Third Arena after the state on Tuesday granted UC an attendance variance to allow 9% capacity inside the 12,012-seat arena.
"Please come and be loud," Brannen said. "If you're not willing to be loud, then have somebody else come, please, because there's a difference between 1,100 and 300."
Cincinnati played each of its first seven home games this season in front of about 300 fans.