Sunday, March 14, 2004

Bobbitt takes pain, then dishes some out

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The irrepressible Tony Bobbitt nearly became Tony Soprano and still he danced. Down the length of the court, cheek to cheek, with James White. You can't keep a hyper man down, even with a well-placed fist to his manhood.

Minutes after being sucker-socked in the worst possible place, Bobbitt had a championship net around his neck. Living well might be the best revenge. Winning is a close second.

Did you see it? You must have seen it. Every man in America who watched the replay - and given the game was broadcast nationally, more than a few men did - felt Bobbitt's pain in a way only a man can. With 8:22 left in the Conference USA title game, DePaul guard LeVar Seals sucker-punched Bobbitt in the groin.

Referees didn't catch it right away. They watched the replay like the rest of us. They couldn't kick Seals out of the game fast enough. Bobbitt was barely off the floor when Seals walked from the court, accompanied by boos

"I couldn't see it," DePaul coach Dave Leitao said. "The ref said he threw a punch."

A punch?

Ali threw punches. Ralph and Alice threw punches. LeVar Seals committed thuggery.

PHOTO GALLERY
photo gallery
Photos of Saturday's game
"There was far too much conversation," Leitao explained. There is "no place in any sport" for punching, "but you keep talking about somebody personally, that causes a reaction."

Did Bobbitt talk about Seals personally, Leitao was asked.

"I don't know," the coach said. "There's conversation going on all day. We tried to get it stopped early. It continued."

Leitao decided it was "a highly contested contest, with a lot on the line. Guys are into it. It's up to the management of the game to make sure" things don't get out of hand. "I'm not going to take anything from the three referees, but it just continued," Leitao said.

To summarize: Tony Bobbitt talked trash to LeVar Seals, the referees didn't do anything about it. So Bobbitt got slammed in the groin. It was a big game. Guys are into it. These things happen.

Seals explained it by saying, "We just ran into each other. To me, he was faking it." I'm sorry, but does anyone hear an "I'm sorry" in that?

As Seals left, several teammates congratulated him with high-fives. Yeah, great job kid. Something to tell your grandchildren.

There are any number of words for this. Idiotic is a good one. So is illegal. Try doing that in public with 14,000 witnesses and see where you spend the night. "I can assure you it'll never happen again," Seals managed. Not for one game, anyway. Seals is suspended for DePaul's NCAA Tournament opener.

(UC coach Bob Huggins saw a foul, but no harm. "I don't see what happened as a reflection of the DePaul basketball program," Huggins said.)

Bobbitt returned to the bench two minutes later. Then, with 2:11 left, he curled around a screen and drained a 3 from the right wing to make it 50-41.

Finally, with the UC lead down to 50-45, Bobbitt took the inbounds pass and broke DePaul's full-court pressure with a length-of-the-field layup. That put the Bearcats up seven with 39 seconds left. Tony Soprano had his revenge.

If you're looking for a symbol for UC's up-and-down-and-up season, Bobbitt will do. He overcame his allergy to Huggins' coaching last season to become a team leader this season.

He played so poorly the last time UC met DePaul, Huggins suggested he should have left Bobbitt home. The coach called Bobbitt an idiot. He said it with love.

On Saturday, with another C-USA title on the line, Bobbitt scored 17 when nobody else was scoring at all. He has a shooter's no-conscience and a winner's heart. Because of Bobbitt and their try-hard, Ziploc defense, the Bearcats won their fourth C-USA Tournament title in nine years.

"(Bobbitt) has incredible energy," Huggins allowed. He used some of it to celebrate with White, gliding down the court, toward the net he would cut down and hang from his neck. He said he was feeling just fine.

---

E-mail pdaugherty@enquirer.com




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