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Fortson buries Bulls himself

Published Feb. 21, 1997|Updated Sep. 30, 2005

Danny, Danny, Danny.

Danny here, Danny there. Danny and more Danny.

Too much Danny for South Florida on Thursday night. Cincinnati power forward Danny Fortson scored the Bearcats' first 15 points, and the nation's No. 11 team cruised to a 76-56 victory.

Fortson, a 6-foot-7 junior considered to be one of the nation's best players, finished with 30 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, but it was his play immediately after the tipoff that put USF in a hole.

"I just came out and played hard and hoped that my teammates would follow in my footsteps," said Fortson, who is averaging 22.1 points and 9.6 rebounds.

Scoring on an array of shots, Fortson put the Bearcats up 15-5 with 14:40 remaining in the half.

"The most impressive thing about his first 15 points was that I think he scored every way you could possibly score," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said. "He scored off the offensive glass, in transition, in the post, and he stepped outside and hit a couple of shots.

"His overall game is getting better and better. He's really expanded his game."

The frustrating thing for USF was that a big part of its game plan was to keep Fortson off the offensive glass. Yet three of his first four baskets were tip-ins or follows.

USF coach Seth Greenberg, who coached Fortson in the 1995 Olympic Festival, had a special message for him after the game.

"I told him "I think you're (an NBA draft) lottery pick, please leave,' " Greenberg said.

When Fortson's teammates finally joined in, the Bearcats' lead expanded to 36-15. The Bulls shot 33.3 percent in the first half and turned over the ball nine times.

Cincinnati's defense seemed to be keyed by extreme physical play. Greenberg's complaints about it resulted in a technical foul, but nothing deterred the Bearcats, who led at halftime 42-25.

The Bulls came out with a new defensive approach and did a better job of containing Fortson. USF senior forward James Harper played Fortson man to man after intermission, and the team did a better job of stopping him from getting position.

Offensively, the Bulls guards attacked the Bearcats' stifling press by slashing toward the basket from the middle instead of up the sidelines.

Brian Lamb, who led USF with 17 points, keyed the charge with a number of fancy drives to the basket. His steal and driving layup cut the deficit to 46-33 with 16:48 remaining.

"I thought their press was ineffective in the second half," Lamb said. "I love the open court. The press gave me the chance to stretch it out, use my athletic ability and get some easy baskets."

Cincinnati countered with two free throws from Fortson and a Darnell Burton jumper. When Buton hit a three-pointer with 14:49 remaining, the Bearcats' advantage was back to 18 points.

USF never threatened again as Cincinnati kept hitting) timely baskets. The Bulls got within 13 with 4:05 remaining, but in the closing minutes, the Bearcats outscored the Bulls 8-1.

Although USF has lost 12 of its past 13, its effort remains constant, and even in a 20-point loss, it showed signs of improvement.

"I don't think people realize how hard it is to get guys to continue playing hard and compete the way they compete," Huggins said. "You have to have an appreciation of how hard it is to keep a team focused when you're 1-12.

"I think Seth is doing a great job."

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