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Bearcats work through early kinks, top NC Central in season opener

It wasn't always pretty, but the Cincinnati Bearcats held on to win their first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference Friday night, 74-61 over North Carolina Central University.

Cincinnati guard Troy Caupin (10) is pressured by North Carolina Central guard Jordan Parks (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Cincinnati
Cincinnati guard Troy Caupin (10) is pressured by North Carolina Central guard Jordan Parks (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in CincinnatiAP Photos - David Kohl
Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) goes for the ball against North Carolina Central guard Jeremy Ingram (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 74-61
Cincinnati guard Sean Kilpatrick (23) goes for the ball against North Carolina Central guard Jeremy Ingram (14) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, in Cincinnati. Cincinnati won 74-61 AP Photo - David Kohl

[Box Score: Bearcats 74, Eagles 61]

As is typical in season-opening games, there were more than a few mistakes for the Bearcats as they took on the Eagles in front of just 6,532 fans at Fifth Third Arena Friday night. Fortunately, the Cats' defense was smothering throughout the game and the offense started to click late in the first half.

Also, the Bearcats have Sean Kilpatrick. That helps.

Kilpatrick scored 22 points and Jermaine Sanders added a career-high 13 off the bench to help the Cats hold off an Eagles' comeback before pulling away in the season-opener for both teams. Titus Rubles added 13 points for UC as well.

The Bearcats shook off a rough start to their season, missing their first seven shots from the field before Justin Jackson scored on a layup with 14:34 left in the first half.

The defense stood strong, however, as the Cats held NCCU without a field goal during a 22-4 run that pulled the Bearcats from a 14-6 deficit to a 28-18 lead with 5:30 left in the first half. Sanders sank two 3-pointers during the run.

Rubles scored nine points in the first half to help Cincinnati take a 40-26 lead by halftime.

Friday night's game was the first in the Global Sports Challenge. In their next three games,the Bearcats will also face North Carolina State (home, Nov. 12), Appalachian State (home, Nov. 16) and Campbell (home, Nov. 20) as part of the Challenge.

NC Central's next games is their home-opener against Johnson & Wales NC. Yes, that is a college. Here is proof.