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At the same time as Vice President Joe Biden is visiting Beijing in hopes of improving relations between the U.S. and China, another group on a goodwill trip from Washington encountered an unexpected diplomatic hiccup.
Georgetown had to leave the court during the fourth quarter of its exhibition game against the Bayi Rockets on Thursday night in Beijing after both benches emptied and a wild brawl erupted between the two teams. None of the Hoyas was seriously injured despite trading punches with the opposing players and having to dodge chairs thrown onto the court and water bottles hurled from the stands.
The best account of what led to the melee comes from the Washington Post's Gene Wang, apparently the lone U.S. reporter in attendance.
Wang wrote that the game was tense from the outset and had to be stopped earlier after two players exchanged words. At one point, a Rockets player even berated John Thompson III as the Georgetown coach yelled instructions to his players.
The hard fouls and constant bickering eventually devolved into bedlam when Bayi big man Hu Ke was called for a foul against Georgetown guard Jason Clark. The senior made it clear he did not appreciate the hard foul, sparking the initial exchange of shoves that led players from both benches to run onto the court in defense of their teammates.
Video of the melee is available at the bottom of this post and this photo gallery from Sina.com also offers several more scenes of the chaos. It was bad enough that Georgetown coach John Thompson III yanked his team off the court, made a hasty exit out of the arena with the score tied at 64 and then issued the following statement about the incident soon afterward.
"Tonight, two great teams played a very competitive game that unfortunately ended after heated exchanges with both teams," Thompson said. "We sincerely regret that this situation occurred. 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."
It's unclear whether Georgetown will continue its 11-day exhibition tour of China or not, but the Hoyas certainly have had a memorable trip so far.
Wednesday's impromptu visit with Biden once seemed like the most exciting part of the trip. Now that's a distant second.
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