An emotional Dick Vitale thanks the fans for their support

Dick Vitale, an iconic television voice of college basketball for the last four decades, on Tuesday night effusively thanked fans on the air for all of their well-wishes during his battle with cancer.

It was an emotional moment.

The 82-year-old Vitale fought back tears as he addressed his struggle with lymphoma, just before tipoff of ESPN’s nationally-televised game between No. 1 Gonzaga and No. 2 UCLA in Las Vegas.

“It’s great being here, Dave,” Vitale told broadcast partner Dave O’Brien. “I didn’t want to cry. I can’t believe I’m sitting here.”

According to a story in the Los Angeles Times, Vitale made the trip to cover the game “a few days after having a fourth round of drugs pumped into his body” to fight the lymphoma.

He was diagnosed on Oct. 12.

Vitale initially was told he might need a surgery for what was believed to be cancer of the bile duct.

But he later was informed that he had the lymphoma, which was good news because it was something that could be treated with six months of chemotherapy, according to The Times.

A former coach at the high school, college and professional levels, Vitale has been broadcasting games since the late 1970s.

For years, he’s been one of the faces of college basketball, known for his gregarious personality and his eccentricities in describing the game on the air.

But in his remarks just before the Gonzaga-UCLA tipoff, Vitale expressed humility and gratitude for support from his family and friends and from the fans.

“I want to thank all you people,” he said.

Years ago, Vitale’s life was touched by cancer when his friend, former North Carolina State coach Jim Valvano, was diagnosed with metastatic adenocarcinoma.

Through the adversity, the two became close, and Vitale attended when Valvano delivered his “don’t give up, don’t ever give up,” remarks at the ESPY Awards presentation in March of 1993.

Valvano passed away a month later.

In the aftermath of his friend’s passing, Vitale emerged as a crusader for cancer research.

The Tampa, Fla., resident has helped raise $44 million for pediatric cancer, which, he said during the broadcast, he wants to boost to $50 million this year.

“Yes, 6 months of chemo will be a challenge,” he said on his Twitter feed. “But with all the love support and (prayers) I am receiving, I am planning on winning the toughest battle I have ever faced.”

As Vitale watched from courtside, Gonzaga put on a show. The No 1-ranked Bulldogs defeated the No. 2 Bruins easily, 83-63. Guard Andrew Nembhard scored 24 points. Forward Drew Timmme had 18.

Freshman Chet Holmgren caught Vitale’s attention with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 blocks. On one play, the lithe 7-footer blocked a shot, dribbled behind his back on a fast break and dunked it two handed.

“He’s a Diaper Dandy deluxe,” Vitale said.

Vitale emerged as one of the stars of the night, as well. Fans chanted his name after the game as he offered remarks on-air to the ESPN viewers.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few told reporters that Vitale “just loves this game” and has done so much for it. “What an ambassador he is for college basketball,” Few said.

Texas Tech wins regional; Jace Jung OK after mishap

Texas Tech infielder Jace Jung, the Big 12 player of the year from San Antonio, shook off a first-inning injury, went on to get two hits and scored two runs Sunday night as the Red Raiders beat the UCLA Bruins 8-2 to win the NCAA Lubbock Regional.

The incident unfolded after the Bruins came to bat in the bottom of the first.

Leading off, UCLA’s Kevin Kendall doubled down the left field line. Pat Caulfield, the next batter, followed with a bunt. As a result, Texas Tech pitcher Mason Montgomery fielded it and fired to first. Jung, who plays second base, was covering on the play.

The low throw led him into the base path where he gloved the ball just as Caulfield was approaching the bag. Caulfield’s knee appeared to hit Jung in the side of the head.

Jung remained on the base path holding his head for a few moments before Tech officials came out of the dugout to see if he was OK.

Initially, it appeared that he might be coming out of the game, but after he left the field briefly with a trainer, he came back out to the applause of the home fans at Dan Law Field.

As for the outcome of the play, Kendall moved up to third base. But umpires reviewed the play and ruled Caulfield out. Kendall later scored on a sacrifice fly as the Bruins took a 1-0 lead.

In his next plate appearance, in the third inning, Jung laced a single to right field and later scored during a three-run uprising. He added a bunt single and another run scored in the fifth. Texas Tech went on to win easily for its third straight victory of the weekend.

Jung, a redshirt freshman from San Antonio’s MacArthur High School, finished the night 2 for 5 at the plate. He entered the NCAA playoffs as one of the nation’s leaders in home runs and RBIs.

NCAA results

Lubbock Regional — Texas Tech wins the regional. The Red Raiders, top seeded in Lubbock and No. 8 in the nation, beat the Bruins behind five innings of two-run, two-hit pitching from Montgomery. Texas Tech will host either Stanford or UC Irvine in the Super Regional next week.

Fort Worth Regional — Oregon State eliminated TCU 3-2 in an afternoon game and then beat Dallas Baptist 5-4 in the nightcap. The win in the second game came on a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth by Garret Forrester. Oregon State and Dallas Baptist will play for the regional title Monday. TCU was the No. 1 seed in the region and No. 6 in the nation.

Austin Regional — Fairfield stayed alive in the tournament by defeating Arizona State 9-7 in a Sunday afternoon game. Texas downed Fairfield 12-2 in the nightcap to complete a 3-0 sweep and the title. The Longhorns, top seeded in the region and No. 2 in the nation, scored in double digits in each of its three games in the playoffs. UT host the Super Regional next week against either South Alabama or South Florida.