DAYTON, Ohio -- Before he could draw up a potential game-winning play in the NCAA tournament, New Orleans coach Mark Slessinger had to break up a fight between two of his players.
Late in the second half of the First Four matchup against Mount St. Mary's, Privateers forward Travin Thibodeaux exchanged words with senior guard Christavious Gill while heading to the bench for a timeout. Gill shoved the junior, and Thibodeaux appeared to respond by putting his hands around his teammate's neck.
Thibodeaux would be benched for the rest of the game at UD Arena on Tuesday night, which New Orleans ultimately lost 67-66 after a full-court Hail Mary attempt didn't connect. The Mountaineers advanced to the next round to face top-seeded Villanova.
"Well, we've got two extremely competitive guys there," Slessinger said about the fight. "And, I mean, they're best friends, to be honest with you. Just got sideways with each other. One thought he should have zigged, and the other thought he should have zagged. They got sideways with each other, they got into it and I made the decision to sit Travin the rest of the half.
"I thought it was in the best interest of our team moving forward for the half. It was disappointing."
The Privateers nearly completed a comeback down the stretch without the versatile Thibodeaux, who finished the game with 11 points, two assists and two rebounds.
He had made a jump shot less than a minute before the incident that pulled New Orleans to within three points of Mount St. Mary's, but following his turnover with 6:36 left in the game, his outing would be over after mixing it up with Gill.
"[Thibodeaux] got a big heart, and unfortunately for him, it gives an uncharacteristic impression of how great a kid he is," Slessinger said. "He's an honor student. He's extremely passionate and cares about his team. That's something that, unfortunately for both of those guys, it's under the lights; it's the first question [about the game] and, unfortunately, it will take away a little bit from the experience of the game and how great of an experience this was for us."