COLUMBUS, Ohio (Ticker) -- Tony Bobbitt made sure Cincinnati's first trip to Columbus in more than 80 years was not a short one.
Bobbitt hit a 3-pointer from the left corner with 16 seconds remaining as the fourth-seeded Bearcats held off No. 13 East Tennessee State, 80-77, in the first round of the Atlanta Region.
It was the fifth 3-pointer of the game for Bobbitt, whose shot lifted the Bearcats (25-6) into a second-round matchup against Illinois, a winner over Murray State earlier Friday.
"I wouldn't have taken it that early but I probably wouldn't have gotten a better look than that," said Bobbitt, whose 3-pointers accounted for all of his 15 points.
Bearcats coach Bob Huggins admitted the Bearcats were looking to run more time off the clock.
"We were going to go for the last shot but when they ran out and doubled, when Tony and Field (Williams) have that good a look, they know to shoot the ball," Huggins said.
Williams scored 19 points to pace Cincinnati, which avoided its second straight first-round exit after falling to Gonzaga last season. The Bearcats have reached the second round in 11 of their last 13 years.
Playing in Columbus for the first time since 1921, Cincinnati appeared ready for a quick knockout, jumping out to an 11-0 lead.
East Tennessee State (27-6) battled back behind diminutive 5-9 guard Tim Smith, who scored 26 points and electrified the crowd at Nationwide Arena with his frequent drives to the basket. He was finished 10-of-25 from the field.
"He (Smith) played awesome today," Buccaneers guard Ben Rhoda said. "He has continually surprised everyone with his play this season. He came through with some clutch plays for us today."
Zakee Wadood also kept East Tennessee State in the game with 17 points and 14 rebounds, seven on the offensive end.
But the Buccaneers double-teamed a Bearcat in the final minute and left Bobbitt wide open in the corner. After patiently waiting for East Tennessee State's James Anthony to jump past him on a head-fake, the Bearcats' sixth man calmly drilled a 20-footer to snap a 77-77 tie.
"They put two guys on me and left probably the second-best shooter on the team, behind Field, open," Cincinnati guard Armein Kirkland said.
On their ensuing possession, the Buccaneers elected not to go for a 3-pointer and Smith missed a driving layup. East Tennessee State also missed two follow attempts before the Bearcats regained possession with 1.8 seconds left and ran out the clock.
"We were trying to get a quick two-point shot and it was open," Smith said. "I thinking about pulling it (for a 3-pointer), but at the same time the lane was open. I just missed it."
The contest was played at a frantic pace with neither team leading by more than two points in the final six minutes. After a dunk by Cincinnati's Jason Maxiell tied it, Jerald Fields, who contributed 19 points, hit two free throws to give the Buccaneers their final lead, 77-75, with 2:07 left.
The Bearcats answered on Eric Hicks' jumper with two minutes remaining and the Buccaneers came up empty on their final three possessions.