CINCINNATI (AP)—As the fouls added up and Cincinnati pulled away, Louisville coach Rick Pitino decided he had seen enough.
Pitino got rapid-fire technical fouls and an automatic ejection Saturday, sparing him from the final 11 minutes of the Bearcats’ 101-80 victory over the fourth-ranked Cardinals.
By that point, Cincinnati (15-8, 7-5 Conference USA) had the game in hand and Pitino had enough of the officials, who sent the Bearcats to the line for a school-record 58 free throws.
“It was time to just go relax,” said Pitino, who had his double-breasted jacket tightly buttoned, his tie neatly knotted and his head down as he left the court. “I’ve seen enough.”
He saw reserve Tony Bobbitt jump-start Cincinnati’s offense by making five consecutive shots. Leonard Stokes had 31 points and Bobbitt finished with 25 as Cincinnati won for only the second time in seven games—its worst slump during coach Bob Huggins’ 14 seasons.
Mostly, Pitino saw the Bearcats go to the free throw line, where they went 42-of-58—both figures setting school records. Louisville was 15-of-35, figures padded by some late free throws.
“We got a directive two weeks ago out of the blue saying hand-checking would be called,” Pitino said. “There was no mention of people being thrown out of bounds and assaulted.
“Guys just have to ref the game. I haven’t been happy with it all season. It’s got to be a two-way street. They just evened it up at the end.”
Since winning 17 straight games, Louisville (19-4, 9-3) has lost three of four. The Cardinals lost their poise as well Saturday—Reece Gaines and Joshua Tinch also got technicals.
Gaines got his with 8:07 left in the first half, after complaining that he’d been bumped as he took a shot but no foul was called. His third foul sent him to the bench and left the Cardinals without their best player.
“I didn’t use any profanity,” said Gaines, who led Louisville with 18 points. “I explained what happened. I didn’t show disrespect in any way. I was surprised, but I should have used better judgment.”
A rough two weeks for the Cardinals ended with their most lopsided loss since falling 77-50 at Cincinnati last season.
“We didn’t understand how tough it is to stay on top,” Gaines said.
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. They voted not to talk to the media after the win Saturday.
Huggins has been displeased with his players’ lack of effort in practice throughout the season.
“They haven’t worked as hard as we have in the past,” Huggins said. “Hopefully, we’ve turned the corner. Yesterday’s practice was as good as we’ve had in the 14 years I’ve been here.”
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 defensive pressure. 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.