By Neil Schmidt
The Cincinnati Enquirer
COLUMBUS - When Tony Bobbitt made what proved to be the game-winning basket Friday with 16 seconds left, he fell backward into the Cincinnati bench, where Robert Whaley appeared to grab him for a celebratory hug.
"I was actually pushing him to get him back down the court," Whaley said, "because my man is lightning quick."
That man in question was East Tennessee State's Tim Smith, the 5-foot-9 quicksilver point guard.
Whaley had reason to worry, for Smith had repeatedly beaten the Bearcats down the Nationwide Arena court for transition baskets. Smith totaled 26 points, five assists and four steals Friday, nearly willing the Buccaneers to an upset.
In the end, though, it was another disappointing near-miss for Smith and his teammates, who lost by the same margin - three - in last year's Tournament to No. 2 seed Wake Forest.
"It hurts," Smith said. "We lose by three again. That's the way it falls, though. All I can ask for us is to lay it all out there, and we did that."
Numerous Bearcats sought out Smith afterward to congratulate him on his effort. Leading the way was James White, who had been Smith's teammate at Hargrave Military Academy.
"He has improved so much," White said. "He has always been fast, but he can utilize his speed so well."
White was the primary defender on Smith, but UC also tried Nick Williams, Field Williams and Chadd Moore on the ETSU sophomore at different points. It eventually switched to a zone to try to limit Smith's penetration.
"He's like a bullet," Moore said. "You see him on film doing that stuff and say, 'That's not going to happen (to us).' And then he's even faster in person."
White said the Bearcats knew Smith preferred to drive to his left, so they tried to make him go right or shoot over them.
Smith has been accused of playing out of control, but he had only two turnovers Friday. He continually pushed the pace, and once on a 1-on-3 fast break knifed between the defenders to score.
"When they turn their heads and jog back, that shows a sign of fatigue," Smith said. "So I go."
If nothing else, Smith and his team won numerous new fans Friday. With just two players completing their eligibility, the Bucs plan to be back.
"I'm hoping to make it four (tournaments) in a row," Smith said.
NCAA TOURNAMENT (Special section)
XU: Musketeers fight back to advance
Patient Sato picks his spots, hits his shots
UC: Bobbitt hits game-winner
Daugherty: Little guy not so little in Tourney
ETSU's Smith plays big
Hicks gets job done as Bearcats' stealth sub
UK: 'Cats pull away in 2nd half to win
Hayes just misses triple-double
Murray St. gets taste of Illini's Big Ten
Cowboys get Sutton's angry halftime message
Wolfpack uses defense to subdue Ragin' Cajuns
Pacific waves goodbye to 5th seed Providence
Maryland sets sights on 'Cuse's sharpshooter
Calhoun could do without matchup
NCAA Tournament at a glance
It's not exactly home, but it's close for the Buckeyes
Tournament chase is all about class
Team by team in the women's field
WNIT: Scoring drought ends MU's season
Victory sends Wilmington to title game
REDS / BASEBALL
Reds pitcher lost for season
2003 Reds finances may have finished in the black
Inside Reds camp
Lidle in Opening Day hunt
Aching Nixon, Garciaparra out of action for Red Sox
BENGALS / NFL
Bengals, Sapp close in on deal
It's official: Keyshawn, Parcells reunited
MND plays nation's top-ranked team for state title
C-J storms into Division I title game
Colonels discover that the 3 is king
Royals win one for the ages
Mason Co. pushed to the 3-OT brink
Prep sports results, schedules
Silver Minister, Bejarano aim to play spoiler
MORE SPORTS HEADLINES
Maruyama moves ahead
Sports this weekend on TV, radio