Cincinnati survived the first minor score of the season against the game Campbell Camels on Tuesday. The usual suspects assured victory in what should be the expectation, at least for now.
CINCINNATI -- The first nervous moment of the Bearcats 2012-13 season rode in on the back of a Camel. OK, technically, his name is Darren White, but referencing Campbell's leading scorer any other way feels like a missed opportunity.
Fighting Camels or not, Campbell proved why they were picked to win the Big South as White's 10 consecutive points cut the Bearcats once 25-point lead to 11 with under seven minutes to play. Runs like those and shots like ones White connected on might not strike a nerve with other Top 25 teams, but a Bearcats fan base who witnessed the Presbyterian nightmare tends to adjust in their seat.
No secret exists as to where the UC offense stems from in those critical moments. While this may have been the first game pressure of the season, it's far from the first game pressure for JaQuon Parker, Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright. They've been pressured by Camels before. No, wait - well, you know what I mean.
Bottom line, these three Bearcats factors are known. They've been accounted for and given nicknames. The only question comes from whether to call them the Three Amigos or the Cincinnati Three-Way.
When Campbell sent a brief Blue Hose flashback into the 5,924 filling Fifth Third Arena, cutting the lead to 11, the Amigos/Three-Way took over.
The phrase "taking over" can be overused in the sports realm. Call it the opposite of "pressured by Camels." On this night, the phrase fit more comfortably than a pregame warmup hoodie. From the time the lead cut to 14 points with 6:25 remaining, no other Bearcats player even took a shot outside of two foul shots by Titus Rubles when he had the ball on the opposite end of the court.
The plan worked. Wright capped off a career high 28 points with a 3-pointer from the corner, Parker tied for the second-highest total of his career and Kilpatrick contributed a workmanlike 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and three assists. Campbell faded to a moral victory and 91-72 loss.
Decisive moments for UC this year will be defined by the play of those three. They earned it.
"As a group we realize we're the veterans on the team so everybody look at us when times get tough and we feel like we worked so hard over the summer we are built to perform," Wright said.
With their talent those shots make sense. They will earn a heaping pile of wins by the time the regular season concludes in March. In order to reach levels discussed by the leadership contingent of this program, however, will the big three will need company?
On Tuesday, Kilpatrick, Parker and Wright shot 21 of 42 from the floor scoring 64 points. The rest of the team shot 11 of 22 for 27 points.
Very little concern came over Mick Cronin's face when questioned on the distribution.
"Don't read too much into it," he said. "Offensively, you can't complain too much when you shoot 50 percent and score 91 points."
Indeed, no need to complain. Teams should have such problems as three great offensive weapons asserting themselves in defining moments. Parker called the slight scare a wake-up call. Cronin files it under blessing in disguise.
"We needed that before Friday," Cronin said of the matchup with Iowa State to open the Global Sports Classic. "Things have been too easy for us."
When the Camels exit and Cyclones and Rebels enter as will be the case in Las Vegas the need for others join add offensive punch could be necessary. Through four games this year - games that featured at least 80 points scored every night - no non-Amigo notched double digits. The great news is a collection of players supplement right now. Seven players entered averaging between five and eight points per game. Those are all pieces attempting to find their role. After all, it's only Nov. 20. Nobody will remember these games come March.
This time last year the Bearcats concerns could be quadrupled. That turned out just fine.
Where should the other scoring options come from, though? Titus Rubles seems a logical choice. Justin Jackson could if he avoided foul trouble. The David Nyarsuk lob will be a weapon as the team adjusts to him.
"I don't care who scores," Cronin said. "I could care less who scores. What I would say we took too many tough jump shots tonight for no reason. When they played tough D and we threw four or five passes we just decided somebody was going to shoot it."
Cronin gives Wright and Kilpatrick "pretty free reign." When players penetrate and distribute, the points do the same. If they all come from three players, so be it. As long as they come. At the end of the day, this isn't an offensive conversation anyway. When looking at where points other than the three primary weapons come from, those are dictated by defense --- both their own and the opposing teams.
"All starts from defense," Wright said. "The offense going to come because we got scorers and got people who can actually play. The defense is where we going to win actual big games. And actually grind them down and win the game at the end."
As for who will be in charge of winning those games at the end, the answer doesn't come as a secret. The Three Amigos/Cincinnati Three-Way will handle the duties - for now. Doesn't mean these three aren't accepting applications.
"We are just playing," Wright said. "Whoever feel like you got the opportunity and you feel comfortable in your matchup, by all means try to score. If you keep scoring we are going to keep giving you the ball."
That day will come. Even if it doesn't, the Bearcats are in good hands.
I want to hear from you. Shoot me any comments, questions or reasons why I should stop dissecting the offense of a team averaging 92 points per game to my email at email@example.com or hit me up on Twitter at @pauldehnerjr.