A men’s basketball matchup against a Chinese professional team devolved into a heated brawl Thursday night, prompting Head Coach John Thompson III to pull his squad off the court in the fourth quarter.
The fight broke out as the the game against the Bayi Rockets was tied at 64. As players and coaches dodged chairs and punches were thrown, fans could be seen hurling bottles at the court, according to the Twitter account of Gene Wang, a sports writer for The Washington Post who was at the game.
The game had already been ridden with fouls up until the time senior guard Jason Clark and Bayi forward-center Hu Ke argued over a foul called for the Rockets, according to the Post. In all, ESPN reported that the Rockets took 57 free throws compared to the Hoyas’ 15.
The officiating had caused enough tension, but Rockets forward Xu Zhonghao exacerbated the situation by taking issue with Thompson III and berating him in the third quarter.
“At one point, a Chinese player walked up to John Thompson III, while John Thompson was coaching on his sideline, about a foot from his face, and started yelling at him,” Wang told CSN Washington, referring to Xu. “I couldn’t believe what I was seeing, what was happening.”
The final straw was the Clark-Hu scuffle, as players from both benches soon took to the court and chaos ensued with a little over nine minutes left. According to Wang, players from both sides threw punches in various skirmishes and senior center Henry Sims had to be restrained after being hit with a chair.
“The Chinese police had not done anything at this point,” Wang told CSN Washington. “The tensions were obviously way high and out of control.”
With Chinese police reportedly failing to break up the ruckus, Thompson and his coaching staff guided the Hoyas and their alumni following toward their buses. No serious injuries were reported at Beijing’s Olympic Sports Center Stadium, according to the Post.
A video from Quickish.com, embedded below, shows the progression of the fighting in the buildup to the team’s exit from the sporting venue. At least one player each from the Rockets and the Hoyas can be seen throwing chairs at the height of the commotion close to the 30-second mark.
Thompson III released a statement on the tussle, which occurred five days into the Hoyas’ visit to China.
“Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams,” Thompson III said. “We sincerely regret that this situation occurred.”
A diplomatic venture for the university as it looks to strengthen its ties with the country, the trip has included meetings with Georgetown alumni and partners, as well as a pep talk from Vice President Joe Biden, who attended a Wednesday game against the Shanxi Zhongyu Brave Dragons.
The trip has afforded Georgetown the chance to share basketball — a popular sport in China — with a country that the university is eyeing as a partner for future projects.
“We remain grateful for the opportunity our student-athletes are having to engage in a sport they love here in China, while strengthening their understanding of a nation we respect and admire at Georgetown University,” Thompson said.
Reports indicate that the Hoyas will remain in China as scheduled.
CORRECTION: This article initially stated that the fight occurred on Friday, Chinese time. The game occurred on Thursday night. We regret the error.