Cats Survive Bull Fight

Down a man the Bearcats looked to their floor leader to return to his scoring ways. Deonta Vaughn gave the Bearcats the extra juice they needed to knock off a hard South Florida team at Fifth Third Arena.

Deonta Vaughn is back to his scoring ways, and not a moment too late. Just a minute and a half into Wednesday's game, the University of Cincinnati's leading scorer had already surpassed his point total from last weeks outing against St. John's. UC head coach Mick Cronin blamed Vaughn's season low last week on a lack of rest. It looks as though Vaughn got plenty of beauty sleep as the Bearcats (13-12, 8-5 in the Big East) defeated the University of South Florida Bulls (11-16, 2-12 in the Big East) 52-51 Wednesday night.

Vaughn led all scorers with 21 points, and what was a close, back-and-forth game all night would fittingly come down to the very end. With 12.9 seconds left to play and UC holding their one-point lead, a missed free throw by Adam Hyrcaniuk would give the basketball to USF and freshman guard Dominique Jones. Jones took the ball coast to coast, and it appeared South Florida could be on their way to picking up their first Big East road win since joining the conference last season. However, Jones couldn't get the lay-up to fall and Bulls big man Kentrell Gransberry would miss the attempted tip-in. Cincinnati was able to swat the ball out of bounds, but 2.9 seconds remained on the clock. One last shot by Jones would not fall, and the Bearcats would hold on to collect their forth win in their last five games.

The one-point loss by USF was their second in as many games, after falling 74-73 against UConn Saturday night.

Junior guard Jesus Verdejo scored a team high 19 points for South Florida, and Jones would add 16 of his own in the losing effort. Verdejo came into the contest averaging just over 10 points per game. Gransberry, who leads his team in scoring with 17.2 points per game on the season, struggled to just seven, taking over 24 minutes before hitting his first field goal. Hyrcaniuk and freshman Anthony "Biggie" McClain were mostly responsible for the impressive UC defense against one of the best big men in the Big East, forcing him to shoot just two of ten from the field on the night. Gransberry was able to pull down game high 16 rebounds however, and Cincinnati was out-rebounded for just the second time in their last eight games.

The Bearcats defense was impressive, causing 15 South Florida turnovers to help their unbalanced offense. Marcus Sikes came off the bench and scored eight points to be UC's second leading scorer on the night. With the win, Cincinnati improved to 8-0 for the season when they hold their opponent below 60 points.

The win also put the Bearcats into a three way tie for fifth place in the Big East, with five games remaining in the regular season. Their eight conference wins are four times as many as they achieved all of last season, a year in which they finished with a 2-14 Big East record. This season has provided UC an opportunity to seek revenge against their Big East foes, including USF.

"They stomped us last year," said Bearcat senior Jamal Warren of the Bulls on Monday. "This whole year we have been trying to pay people back."

Coach Cronin called Wednesday's game a must-win game if his team had any hope of playing in the post season. A victory over South Florida was just the first step, however, and Saturday afternoon the ‘Cats will hit the road to take on the Georgetown Hoyas at noon in our nation's capital.

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