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Brawl Between U.S. College, Chinese Teams Ends Basketball Exhibition

An exhibition basketball game between Georgetown University's Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets descended into a brawl and then a full-on melee Thursday, one day after visiting Vice President Joe Biden stopped by to watch Georgetown play another team, the Shanxi Brave Dragons, in Beijing.

Both the Rockets and the Brave Dragons are professional teams. In Wednesday's game, the Hoyas beat the Brave Dragons, 98-81.

Biden watched that game with Georgetown University President Jack DeGoia and new U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke — who, as Eyder reported yesterday, is already a hit with the Chinese public, who were charmed by a photo of him getting his own coffee.

It's hard to tell how Thursday's clash will play out, but the bedlam that took over the exhibition game is sure to share headline space with news of Biden's attempts to improve relations with China.

Gene Wang of The Washington Post was at Thursday's game. Here's part of the story he filed (and is updating with new info as it emerges):

Georgetown Coach John Thompson III pulled his players off the court with 9 minutes 32 seconds left in the game and the scored tied at 64 after a chaotic scene in which members of both teams began throwing punches and tackling one another.

Georgetown senior center Henry Sims had a chair tossed at him by an unidentified person, and freshman forward Moses Ayegba, who was wearing a brace on his sore right ankle, walked onto the court with a chair in his right hand. According to Georgetown officials, Ayegba had been struck, prompting him to grab a chair in self-defense.

It was the second time both benches emptied in physical game marred by fouls. By halftime, Bayi had 11 fouls while Georgetown had 28.

The brawl erupted after Bayi big man Hu Ke committed what Wang describes as a "hard foul" on Georgetown guard Jason Clark. The two began shoving one another, and the benches cleared.

Here's a video shot from the stands:

The Postsite has several photos of the event. In them, a mass of players are grappling and hitting at each other out by the three-point arc. It seems that the crowd became involved, as well, throwing water bottles and other items at the Georgetown players.

Wang writes that earlier in the game, a Bayi forward had "approached Thompson while he was yelling instruction to his players and then began berating him. Thompson stared at Xu in disbelief" and the referees halted the game briefly.

It's been a rough week for basketball in China. Tuesday, the national team was humiliated by Australia, 71-43, and lost its star player and captain, Wang Shipeng, to injury in the same game.

And China's team of top university players has lost three in a row, including an 18-point loss to Romania Thursday.

Earlier today, China Daily posted the results of a poll showing that many Chinese view the U.S.-China relationship as lacking both stability and trust:

More than a third of the people surveyed in a fresh China Daily poll said relations between China and the United States are very volatile while more than half of them believe the biggest hurdle is a lack of mutual trust.

The survey polled about 3,230 Internet users, with only 35 percent of those polled calling the bilateral relationship stable and 25 percent undecided about Sino-US ties.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.