Coming off their worst defeat of the season in Connecticut, the University of Cincinnati men's basketball team made the short trip to New York City for their Wednesday night Big East tournament match up.
Recently being named to the all-Big East first team, Cincinnati's Deonta Vaughn and Pittsburgh's Sam Young put up monster performances. Unfortunately, only one could come out on top, and the Pitt Panthers put an end to the Bearcats season with a 70-64 win in Madison Square Garden.
Vaughn, just a sophomore, gave UC fans something to look forward to in the coming years, leading all scorers with 30 points in the losing effort. In the second half Vaughn hit 3-pointers on four straight Cincinnati possessions, part of a ten minute-plus span in which he scored 20 straight Cincinnati points. While he shot just eight-of-25 (32 percent) from the floor on the night, Vaughn got his fellow Bearcats involved with a team-high six assists. Vaughn played 39 minutes in what would be UC's final game of the season.
Young led Pittsburgh with 21 points as well as four crucial blocks, two of which in the final moments of the second half, to keep Cincinnati at bay as the game came winding down. Guard Keith Benjamin, averaging less than ten points per game on the season, went two-of-four from behind the arc en route to scoring 15 points. Ronald Ramone went four-of-seven from long distance for his 12 points, and LeVance Fields added ten points of his own for the Panthers.
Cincinnati freshman Rashad Bishop started the game for the Bearcats, and started their scoring for the night pretty impressively. After Pitt built an early 5-0 lead, Bishop took a pass from Vaughn and fired up a three-point jumper. The shot drew nothing but net, except for Benjamin contact on Bishop. The rare four-point play put the Bearcats right back in the game, keeping Pittsburgh within arm's reach for the entirety of the first half. The Panthers led 31-25 at the break. Bishop was the team's second leading scorer on the night with 11 points, but shot just two-of-seven from three-point land. Playing it what would more than likely be his final game, senior Jamaul Warren shot an impressive two-of-three from beyond the arc and four-of-six overall on his way to scoring ten points, double his season average.
Pittsburgh built a game-high 11-point lead just less than six minutes into the second half. Just over seven minutes later, following Vaughn's back-to-back-to-back-to-back three's, Pitt held just a 56-54 lead. That was as close as UC would get the rest of the night, as Vaughn would miss seven of his final nine field goals, and free throws would ice it for the Panthers.
Senior Marvin Gentry unfortunately missed out on yet another game, what would be the last of his collegiate career, due to his case of planter fasciitis.
After dropping their final six games of the season, Wednesday's contest was more than likely the final time we'll see this season's Bearcat squad on the basketball court. This year's six-win improvement in the Big East should have UC fans excited for things to come, even with the departure of this year's senior class, a group that along with Vaughn will one day be looked upon as solely responsible for starting the rebuilding success of Cincinnati basketball. With a talented crop of freshman coming in, plus an experienced group of role players around returning all-Big East first team selection Vaughn, head coach Mick Cronin will not look to disappoint in his third season in Clifton.
We here at Bearcat Insider will be covering the upcoming off season with great interest, looking forward to next year's opening tip. Until then, enjoy the nice weather of spring and summer, basketball fans!