After four cupcake opponents to start the season, Cincinnati got its first real taste of competition on Friday night as the Bearcats took on Iowa State in the Global Sports Classic in Las Vegas.
While it was not pretty, Cincinnati was victorious, coming out with a 78-70 victory.
The first four games of the season for the Bearcats were against schools the likes of Campbell and North Carolina A&T. This was a bit of a different story, as Iowa State came in 4-0. Cincinnati responded and showed why it is one of the Top 25 teams in the country.
After the first half was played to a 35-35 tie, the Bearcats came out hot in the second half, extending the lead to 16 points before seeing Iowa State climb back and cut the deficit to just three with under three minutes remaining.
The Bearcats responded by hitting some clutch free throws down the stretch, something they have been unable to do for most of the season.
Cincinnati was 23-of-25 from the charity stripe after coming into the game barely over 50 percent for the season.
That was the difference in the game, along with the play of junior guard Sean Kilpatrick, who continues to develop into one of the best players in all of college basketball.
He finished the game with a career-high 32 points on 7-of-14 from the field. He was also 2-of-6 from three-point range.
The difference for Kilpatrick was the fact that he was 16-of-16 from the free-throw line. The Bearcats needed nearly every one of them to hold on for the win.
The victory puts Cincinnati in the championship game of the Global Sports Classic. The Bearcats will take on the winner of Oregon vs. UNLV Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. ET.
The likely opponent is UNLV. The Rebels are ranked No. 18 in both major polls and would certainly be the biggest challenge the Bearcats have faced so far this season.
If Cincinnati plans on knocking off the Rebels, it will need to receive a better effort from the rest of the team, other than just Kilpatrick.
If that happens, Cincinnati will be off to a 6-0 start and winners of the Global Sports Classic.