Cashmere Wright recorded his highest point total of his career, three Bearcats scored in double figures, and the Cincinnati Bearcats dispatched of the Campbell Camels in their final tune-up before heading to Las Vegas later this week.
The Bearcats (4-0) were sloppy on both sides of the ball, turning the ball over with as much frequency as they had in any of their previous three games.
Still, the team was able to build an 18-point halftime lead behind the play of Cashmere Wright and hang on to win 91-72 despite a furious rally from the Camels over the final 10 minutes of the second half.
“I’ve got great respect for their coach and for their program,” said Bearcats’ head coach Mick Cronin after the game. “We needed a game like that. Things have been too easy for us. For a little bit when things weren’t easy, our guys didn’t know what to do. We had to dig a little deep.”
Wright, who led the team with 28 points, turned in an excellent performance on a night when most of the team seemed to struggle.
Kilpatrick, who recorded a career-high 31 points on Sunday, struggled out of the gate.
The team’s leading scorer missed his first five three-point attempts, but finished strong with 15 points, 11 of which came in the second half. Kilpatrick was again strong on the glass, recording a double-double with 10 rebounds.
Senior JaQuon Parker finished with 21 points in the win.
Campbell (2-3) proved to be a tougher test for the Bearcats than most had anticipated.
The Camels shot just over 47 percent from the field, a far cry from what the Bearcats had been allowing opponents this season.
Senior guard Darren White led the team in scoring with 22 points. White, who transferred from James Madison in 2009, is averaging 25 points per game for Campbell this season.
The Camels had 3 players reach double figures, exposing holes in a Bearcat defense that admittedly failed to play to its expectations.
“They shot 63 percent in the second half. Coach Cronin told us if we take that to Las Vegas we aren’t going to win,” said Wright. “We need to focus and play tough for the full 40 minutes.”
“I think our intensity level let down. We just got comfortable with our lead and forgot about all of our assignments.”
The Bearcats played Tuesday’s game at a much slower pace than would be expected – very little press and more of a half court approach – something that should change going forward.
“We rested our defense in the second half and we paid the price,” said Mick Cronin after the game. “We didn’t have any defensive energy in the second half.”
The Bearcats were again abysmal from the free throw line, connecting on just 9-17 foul shots on the heels of Sunday’s 9-for-23 performance against North Carolina A&T.
The Bearcats remained unbeaten with the win, but the road is sure to get tougher as the team heads to Las Vegas for games against Iowa State and then UNLV or Oregon.