CINCINNATI 78, USF 68: The Bulls lead just about every offensive category and still fall short.
By PETE YOUNG, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 27, 2002
TAMPA -- South Florida took more shots from the field, made more (and a better percentage), had more rebounds, assists, blocks and steals Saturday than No. 4-ranked Cincinnati.
The Bearcats -- somehow -- had more points.
Cincinnati outlasted USF 78-68 before 7,372 at the Sun Dome by utilizing a 27-11 advantage in free throws (a 30-17 edge in attempts) and sharp 3-point shooting. The Bearcats (19-1, 7-0 Conference USA) won their national-best 19th straight and dealt the Bulls (13-6, 4-3) their 11th straight defeat in the series.
A USF breakthrough victory -- the Bulls haven't defeated a ranked team in 10 years -- was denied.
"We were very close to beating a really good basketball team. A play here, a play there," USF coach Seth Greenberg said. "They've got a great team. If they're the (fourth-best) team in the country, we can't be far behind."
The Bulls trailed 35-29 at the half, captured a 40-39 lead with 15 minutes left but were behind the rest of the way. A rally in the final minute -- USF cut it to 71-66 on a four-point play by Jimmy Baxter with 40.8 seconds to go -- was denied by Cincinnati's free-throw marksmanship.
Foul trouble, particularly on senior Altron Jackson, and USF's inability to get to the free-throw line despite pounding it inside left the Bulls exasperated. USF was called for 25 fouls to Cincinnati's 20, and Bulls centers Will McDonald and Mike Bernard combined for 22 field-goal attempts but nine free-throw attempts.
"They drilled us inside today," Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins said, "and that hasn't happened much."
McDonald, a 6-foot-11 junior who has blossomed after two seasons on the bench, matched a career high with 28 points on 11-for-16 shooting.
"(McDonald) was a beast out there today," Cincinnati guard Steve Logan said.
In his past two games against Cincinnati, McDonald had played a combined seven minutes and taken one (blocked) shot.
"I played with a little revenge," McDonald said. "My freshman year, I got in the game and I went up with my first shot, and (Cincinnati center Donald) Little blocked my shot, and he was showboating in front of (the crowd). I personally made it a purpose to go in there and dominate him."
As good as McDonald was, Logan, the reigning C-USA player of the year, might have been better. Closer to 5-10 than his listed 6-2, Logan scored 27, including 12 of 13 free throws, added seven assists and had an answer whenever USF made a run.
Logan also drew fouls on Jackson. USF played man-to-man defense almost exclusively, with the 6-6 Jackson usually guarding Logan. Jackson (11 points, five from becoming C-USA's all-time leader) committed his third foul -- on Logan -- with 17:56 remaining. Logan coaxed him into his fourth with a baseline pump-fake with 14:28 to go, sending Jackson to the bench for five minutes.
Still, the Bulls hung within striking distance. USF trailed by as much as 12 but whittled the lead to 69-62 on two free throws by McDonald with 1:01 to go.
Logan hit two free throws to stretch the deficit to nine, then Baxter made his four-point play, making it 71-66.
The next play -- or whistle -- essentially finished USF. Cincinnati inbounded the ball to Jason Maxiell, and Jackson sneaked up behind him and poked it away to a USF player ... except Jackson was called for his fifth foul.
"I feel like I only had one foul," said Jackson, who fouled out for the second time in 109 games. "It's very frustrating. Let the players decide the game."
Maxiell (18 points, six rebounds), a freshman power forward, entered shooting 49 percent on free throws but made 8 of 9. Cincinnati reserve guard Field Williams (14 points), a 3-point specialist, made 4 of 6 from behind the arc.
USF executed consistently against the nation's best scoring and field-goal percentage defense, shooting 44.1 percent (26-for-59). The Bulls' 68 points were the third-most against the Bearcats this season.
USF's B.B. Waldon also was plagued by foul trouble. He finished with 11 points and seven rebounds and became the first player in C-USA history with 1,700 points and 800 rebounds. Bernard (six points) injured the middle toe on his left foot in the second half and did not return.