Cincinnati might have faced just enough adversity in its last contest to properly prepare itself for what should be a challenging weekend in Las Vegas.
The No. 22 Bearcats face their first true test Friday night against undefeated Iowa State in the semifinals of the Global Sports Classic at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Cincinnati (4-0) had little trouble beating Tennessee-Martin, Mississippi Valley State and North Carolina A&T by an average 39.7 points, and appeared to be in for any easy time Tuesday before Campbell cut a 25-point second-half deficit down to 11. The Bearcats were able to regroup and win 91-72, but finally had to work for something.
"We needed to play against that,'' coach Mick Cronin said. "Things have been too easy. We regrouped and did what we had to do.''
The guard trio of Cashmere Wright, Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuon Parker combined for 64 points on 21-of-42 shooting but the Bearcats' lackadaisical approach after leading 46-28 at halftime is something they can't afford against tougher competition.
"We just got caught up in the moment of the game," said Wright, who had 28 points and five steals. "(Campbell) shot 63 percent in the second half. (Cronin) said if we take that to Vegas, we're not going to win.
"We have a bulls-eye on our back and people are talking about us being a ranked team so people are going to come out there and give us their best game."
While Cronin doesn't feel his team has something to prove in Las Vegas, he's looking at this as another chance for his team to improve in an event that concludes Saturday against either Oregon or No. 18 UNLV.
"We need it. Looking forward to it," Cronin said. "But it's not going to say anything, because if we don't play well, we're not going to quit.
"I'm interested in us competing, being able to deal with adversity, make the adjustments that we need to make. Find out how to win a game, instead of worrying about how many we're winning by."
One area Cronin would like to see his team improve is at the free-throw line where they are shooting 53.2 percent. Kilpatrick is averaging a team-leading 19.5 points but is 5 of 13 from the stripe.
The Bearcats likely can't afford to struggle at the line against Iowa State, which is looking to start 5-0 for the third time in four years. Like Cincinnati, the Cyclones are facing their first true test after winning the first four games by an average 32.5 points.
"We're going to go out to Vegas and see what we're made of," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. "We're going to have a great test in that first game."
The Cyclones are led by 6-foot-7 guard Will Clyburn, whose 15.0 points per game leads a group of four players averaging at least 11.0. The senior also is tied for the team lead with 8.3 rebounds.
This is the first meeting between the schools since then-No. 1 Cincinnati beat Iowa State 75-60 on Nov. 28, 1999, in Hilo, Hawaii.