Opposites are attraction in Southeast semifinals Cincinnati, Miss. State hope power beats finesse of Ga. Tech, Connecticut; NCAA TOURNAMENT

LEXINGTON, KY. — LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Cincinnati's Danny Fortson says power will beat finesse tonight.

Georgia Tech's Stephon Marbury says quickness will win out over muscle.


It's a theme that will play out more than once when classic matchups fill Rupp Arena in the Southeast Regional semifinals.

In the first game, top-seeded Connecticut plays the finesse role to fifth-seeded Mississippi State's power game.


Then No. 2 seed Cincinnati takes on No. 3 seed Georgia Tech in a matchup featuring a little pre-game primping from both teams yesterday.

"We're going to try to wear them out and go with our game plan, which is physical dominance," said Fortson, the 6-foot-7 power forward who generates 20 points and nearly 10 rebounds a game for the Bearcats.

The power game helped the Bearcats to a 27-4 record and the Conference USA title this season. Theirs is a team not only with muscle, but also a memory.

"I think our team has a pretty optimistic view of the Sweet 16," said 6-5 senior Keith Gregor. "This is the same team as the last two years that exited early [from the tournament].

"Look at the brackets; we're a No. 2 seed, and we're supposed to be here. I don't think it'd be any big upset if we won and went on to the Final Four."

If the Bearcats are optimistic, it's with good reason. Georgia Tech (24-11) has appeared vulnerable in the frontcourt most of the season, despite winning the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season title.

The Yellow Jackets answer the bulk of Art Long, 6-9, 250 pounds, and Fortson, 260 pounds, with string-bean Eddie Elisma, 6-9, 210, and Michael Maddox, 6-8, 224.

"I was asked to compare them with a team in the ACC, and I had trouble finding a team that physical in our league," Tech coach Bobby Cremins said. "That's a trademark of [Cincinnati coach] Bob Huggins. That's got them where they are. We're not like that. But we have found ways to win games."


The power vs. finesse sword cuts both ways, of course. Marbury, Tech's sensational freshman point guard, says the Jackets will be ready for Cincinnati's pressing schemes.

"When a team presses another team that's perimeter-oriented, sometimes they can wear themselves out and they won't be able to press at the end, or they won't be as intense," Marbury said. "That could be an edge for us. . . . I don't think they faced a combination of guards like us in their conference."


"We haven't played any guard who can do as many things as Stephon can," Huggins said. "We haven't played anybody with three guys on the perimeter who can create the way Tech can create. That's probably the reason they're here and others aren't."

Connecticut (32-2) is here because few teams have been able to slow a frenetic pace that bagged Georgetown in the Big East tournament title game. The Huskies, as coach Jim Calhoun suggested, aren't going to awe Mississippi State (24-7) with their physical presence.

"No one has asked us to a bodybuilding contest recently," Calhoun said. "We like to play the open floor, we like to play with a great deal of finesse. We want to make it a sprinting contest, we don't want to make it a wrestling contest. We're not an overly strong team."


The Huskies have first team All-American Ray Allen (23.4 ppg) and steady Doron Sheffer (16.2 ppg) in the backcourt, but they may not have freshman Ricky Moore. The backup point guard reinjured his right shoulder in a first-round tumble against Colgate, and although Moore practiced yesterday, Calhoun says is "very questionable" for tonight.

Mississippi State coach Richard Williams listened to the talk about the clash of styles with UConn and wondered aloud whether some people are selling his Bulldogs short.

"I don't know of too many guys who are going to outrun [6-7 forward] Dontae Jones," Williams said. "I don't know of too many guys the size of Erick Dampier [6-11, 265] who can outrun him. So to say that we're not as athletic would be a mistake."

Pub Date: 3/22/96