March 24, 2010
By Bo Jessee
As the final seconds ticked away in the University of Cincinnati's 81-66 loss to Dayton on Monday night, Deonta Vaughn's career as a Bearcat came to a close.
After struggling for stretches this season, Vaughn finished with 28 points in his final game at Fifth Third Arena. In addition to being a season high for a UC player, Vaughn's 28 points gave him 409 for the season. He is the only player in UC history to score more than 400 points in a season four times.
"It was a great four years here," Vaughn said afterward. "It hit me. Coach (Mick) Cronin took me out and I received a nice standing ovation from the fans. It is a good way to go out, except with the loss."
Vaughn ended his career as the all-time leader in minutes played and No. 3 scorer in school history with 1,885 points, behind only Steve Logan and Oscar Robertson.
The first three seasons under Cronin ended with losing streaks of at least four games, but after a surprising run in the Big East Tournament the Bearcats finished the 2009-10 season with a bit of momentum, winning three of their last five games.
"We continued to progress, really relying on some young players with freshmen and Yancy Gates," Cronin said after the DePaul loss. "(There were) a lot of close calls. It is tough when you are so close and building a program from where it was. We have been able to improve every year."
UC's win total has improved every year under Cronin, going from 11 wins to 13 to 18 to 19 this season. But after missing out on the NCAA Tournament again, Cronin is prepared to give his players an ultimatum.
"I'll meet individually with everyone when they get back from Spring Break," Cronin said. "The biggest thing is to be able to get enough talent to score the basketball at the highest level. You have to be able to play hard enough at all times with consistent effort. If you can't, then we can't count on you to do that, and we'll find other people that will."
Cronin has yet to comment on whether Rashad Bishop will be with the team next season after the junior was suspended for the last five games this year.
With Vaughn graduating, it leaves a void of 30 minutes per game at a guard position to fill. Freshmen Jaquon Parker and Cashmere Wright, who each showed flashes of potential throughout the season, will compete for those minutes along with Dion Dixon, Larry Davis and Sean Kilpatrick, who sat out this season as a redshirt.
Darnell Wilks could see increased playing time in the frontcourt after he finished the season strong, but he will have to compete with Ibrahima Thomas, Gates, Anthony McClain and two incoming freshmen for minutes.
The two newcomers will be high school teammates Justin Jackson, a 6-foot-8 220-pound forward and Kelvin Gaines, a 6-10 225-pound center. They played at Arlington Country Day in Jacksonville, Fla., and are both rated three-star recruits by Rivals.com.
Lance Stephenson, UC's leading scorer this year, said he plans to return next season instead of entering the NBA draft.
"I definitely plan to be better as a teammate and player," Stephenson said Monday night. "We are just going to work hard this summer as a team and work on our jump shots and get focused for next year."
An offseason full of shooting is needed for a team that may have made the NCAA Tournament if not for long stretches of poor shooting from the free throw and 3-point lines.