Coming into the contest as the team's two leading scorers, Vaughn (14.1) and Williamson (12.5), the freshman and JUCO transfer knew their play would be pivotal gauges of their team's ultimate success or failure.
However, their collective effort became even more important when struggling senior Cedric McGowan was buried deep on the Cincinnati bench with foul trouble and poor play, thus making an already short for for the Bearcats nearly nonexistent. With their backs against the wall, the pair of first-year players came out punching, combining for 37 of the ‘Cats' 69 points.
Trailing by 10 points coming out of the break, Williamson and Vaughn knew they would have to step up if they were to put an end to the team's five-game losing streak and pick up the team's first true road win of the season. While in the end their efforts would come up just short, the Bearcats versatile scoring threats did their best to keep UC in a position to win the game. Though neither of the ‘Cats scored during the team's 11-0 run to open the second period of play, the combo was directly responsible for giving Cincinnati its first lead since early in the first half. With his team trailing by a only single point, 42-41, Vaughn seized his lone steal of the contest then quickly pushed the ball ahead to Williamson who would throw down as only he knows how for the go-ahead basket.
After Rutgers regained control in the back-and-forth period, Vaughn connected on his fourth 3-point field goal of the contest to push the lead back into UC's favor at 55-54. Including that bucket, the mixture of Vaughn and Williamson would go on to score 11 points of a 15-7 stretch by the Bearcats and granted their team a 67-61 lead, which was believed, or at least hoped, by most Cincinnati fans to be the run that broke the Scarlet Knights back. While, sadly, that would not prove to be the case due to ice cold UC shooting down the stretch, Vaughn and Williamson would not let leave quietly. Williamson punished the ball through the rim on an authoritative jam and gave the Bearcats one final chance to make a run at victory as the score now stood at 70-69 with over one minute remaining.
While the short term affect of the effort of Williamson and Vaughn may have resulted in a loss, the long term benefits do not seem to carry with them any negative consequences. The strong individual offensive performances by Williamson and Vaughn were, are, and will be welcome sights for Bearcat fans who most certainly have developed sore eyes from watching this version of Cincinnati basketball play recently. While Vaughn has played well for the majority of the season, Williamson had had his share of personal ups and downs, particularly during his most recent stretch where nothing seemed to go right for him. Williamson is not the sole cause of his team's current losing ways, which, including Saturday's falter, includes 12 of their last 13 outings. However, his personal struggles on the court have been a definite hindrance to Cincinnati's designs on winning. Williamson, who started off to a strong for the Bearcats this season, has been inconsistent recently. Besieged offensively by both the tall defenders in the Big East and a tendency to find himself in foul trouble, Williamson has seen his scoring output fall from 14.7 points at the start of Big East play to 12.5 coming into the meeting with Rutgers. However, in a rare positive sign for this haphazard squad, Williamson's effort against the Scarlet Knights appears to mark a relative return to prominence for the Cincinnati State product. After scoring a combined three points in a pair of games against Georgetown and Louisville, Williamson's scoring tallies have totaled at least 13 points in each of the past three games and has increased in each contest.
While not as prounced as Williamson's struggles, Vaughn definitely endured a stretch of basketball that displayed far from his finest efforts. It is safe to say that Vaughn momentarily hit the infamous freshman wall during the middle portion of his first college season. After scoring 33 points in the fourth game of his career, Vaughn soon became the Bearcats most explosive offensive weapon. Including his career outing against Wofford, Vaughn's eight game stretch saw him score at least 16 points seven times, including three outings of 24 points or more. However, after that point Vaughn slumped for a two-week stretch that saw him average only five points and endure a series of struggles in his all-around game. Since then, however, the 6-foot bowling ball with legs has scored double figures in ever game and has helped push his season scoring average up near 15 points per night.
While the largest percentage of the tandem's combined scoring efforts took place during the second half, it was their collective production duing the initial period of play that kept the Bearcats within striking distance of Rutgers after the first 20 minutes of play. In danger of seeing the Scarlet Knights run away with the game, Williamson and Vaughn were more-or-less dual-handedly responsible from thwarting such an event from taking place. The ‘Cats one-two punch would reel off 17 of the team's 29 first half points.
While they were strong for the duration of the period, it was their play at the bookends of the half that were most successful. The duo combined for nine of UC's first 14 points (Vaughn, 6; Williamson, 3) in helping their team jump out to a commanding lead early on in both the scoring column and in terms of momentum. While they were only 7-6 at home this season prior to their matching with UC, the RAC, as it is lovingly referred to by Scarlet Knight fans, has always been a safehaven for Rutgers, as they have produced a 318-137 record (69.8 percent) in the buildings 30-year history. Continuing that trend as everyone watching the game knew they would, RU would go on a 16-0 run, giving them the lead at 27-21 and robbing the ‘Cats of all their momentum. However, the combination of Williamson and Vaughn would take control once again of Cincinnati's scoring duties, scoring the final eight points of the half for the team, which cut the lead to a manageable total.