No. 5 Cincinnati 79, South Florida 60
CINCINNATI (AP) _ It’s not surprising when Danny Fortson has a big game. It’s surprising when he doesn’t.
``It’s like you throw it in there and if he misses and he’s not fouled, we look at each other and say, `What’s wrong with Danny?‴ Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said.
There was nothing wrong with him Sunday, when Fortson scored 20 points and had a career-high 17 rebounds as the fifth-ranked Bearcats beat South Florida 79-60.
After a sluggish start, Cincinnati finally got in gear in the second half and Fortson scored seven points in a 16-1 run down the stretch.
The Bearcats, who had a rare midnight game Friday, were playing their second game in less than 40 hours and looked weary.
``I thought we were flat. Three games in five days will do that,″ said Huggins, who became the Cincinnati’s career victory leader with a 155-59 record in seven seasons. The late George Smith was 154-56 in eight seasons, including the Oscar Robertson era.
Darnell Burton added 19 points for the Bearcats (17-1, 6-1 Conference USA), while Damon Flint had 17.
James Harper led South Florida (8-10, 0-7) with a career-high 21 points and Brian Lamb added 15. But the team’s leading scorer, Chucky Atkins, was held to nine points and No. 2 scorer Donzel Rush was scoreless when he fouled out with 5:20 left.
The final margin belied the closeness earlier, but was a far cry from Cincinnati’s 71-69, last-second victory over South Florida earlier this season.
``We had a better understanding of their offense,″ Bearcats point guard Keith LeGree said. ``We took a lot of it away. We took away their reversals, and they couldn’t get it back.″
Slowed by South Florida’s deliberate offense and plagued by poor shooting, the Bearcats struggled to a 30-28 halftime lead, equaling their lowest first-half production of the season.
Cincinnati opened a 50-40 lead with 12:47 to play, but still couldn’t shake South Florida, which used free throws to narrow the gap to 56-54 with 8:20 left.
But then Fortson led the 16-1 run as Cincinnati pulled away.
``Why do you only want to talk about that part?″ South Florida coach Bobby Paschall said. ``Why don’t we talk about the other parts of the game, where we played them even?
``Obviously, we had our big people foul out and we were just trying to hang on down the stretch.″
Art Long, Cincinnati’s second-leading rebounder, did not play in the second half. Huggins said that was because of ``the same reason as Keith LeGree a couple of games ago.″
Huggins’ rule is that when he’s coaching, players listen rather than talk.
``I’m trying to coach out there and teach them some things,″ Huggins said. ``I listen better than anybody in America _ I’m like (former Marquette coach) Al McGuire _ but I wasn’t in the mood. I think I know more than they do.″