CINCINNATI - Reserve Tony Bobbitt jump-started Cincinnati's offense by making five consecutive shots, and the Bearcats shot a school-record 58 free throws as they beat No. 4 Louisville 101-80 on Saturday.
Leonard Stokes had 31 points and Bobbitt finished with 25 as Cincinnati (15-8, 7-5 Conference USA) won for only the second time in seven games — its worst slump during coach Bob Huggins' 14 seasons.
Since winning 17 straight games, Louisville (19-4, 9-3) has lost three of four. The Cardinals lost their poise as well Saturday, drawing four technical fouls.
Coach Rick Pitino got two in rapid-fire succession and was ejected with 11:02 left in the game and Cincinnati ahead by 31 points. He calmly walked off the court, his double-breasted jacket still buttoned crisply, as the crowd roared.
It was Louisville's most lopsided loss since falling 77-50 at Cincinnati last season. Gaines led Louisville with 18 points.
Out of ideas for getting his team turned around, Huggins closed the Shoemaker Center during practice last week and prohibited his players from giving interviews.
Bobbitt, one of Huggins' most outspoken players, got Cincinnati rolling when he came off the bench. He missed his first four shots, then hit three consecutive 3-pointers for a 47-33 halftime lead.
Fans who screamed for Huggins to bench Bobbitt during a loss to Saint Louis on Tuesday, when he was 1-for-9 from the field, were screaming his name early in the second half. Bobbitt had a steal and layup, then a 3-pointer as Cincinnati opened the second half with a 19-5 run.
Bobbitt missed Cincinnati's 77-71 loss at Louisville on Feb. 5 after quitting the team over his lack of playing time. He returned a few days later and was welcomed back immediately.
The tightly called game made it difficult for Louisville to use its full-court press and got the Cardinals' tempers simmering. Thirty-two fouls were called in the first 20 minutes, 21 against Louisville.
Gaines, the Cardinals' leading scorer, got a technical for complaining about the lack of a call when his shot was blocked at 8:09 of the first half — his third foul of the game.
Cincinnati went 19-of-28 from the free throw line in the first half. Louisville was 5-of-13, prompting Pitino to yell, "That was awful!" as he walked past the officials and headed for the locker room at halftime.
As Bobbitt helped Cincinnati pull away in the second half, he turned courtside and pointed to former Bearcat Oscar Robertson, who has tried to be a mentor. Robertson nodded back.
It was Bobbitt's first big game since he scored 29 points in a 77-52 win over Oregon on Dec. 17.
|Louisville Box Score|
Blocked Shots: Dartez - 2, Dean - 1, Stone - 1, Brown - 1
Assists: Gaines - 5, Stone - 3, Garcia - 2, Northern - 2, Dean - 1, Whitehead - 1, Brown - 1, Dartez - 1
Steals: Gaines - 2, Dean - 1, George - 1
Turnovers: Gaines - 4, Stone - 2, Dartez - 4, Brown - 3, Myles - 4, Dean - 2, Northern - 1, Naydenov - 1