- Dana O'Neil, ESPN Senior Writer
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Georgetown's tour through China turned ugly Thursday when a game between the Hoyas and the Bayi Rockets, a Chinese professional team, ended in a bench-clearing brawl.
Mex Carey, Georgetown's sports information director, told ESPN.com that the game was "very physical," with 57 free throws taken by Bayi to just 15 for Georgetown, and quickly spun out of control.
According to The Washington Post, coach John Thompson III pulled his team off the court with the score tied at 64 midway through the fourth quarter after the teams exchanged punches. One Hoyas player, Henry Sims, was reportedly hit by a chair.
The Hoyas dodged water bottles and other objects thrown from the stands as they made their way to the locker room. Carey said one Georgetown fan in attendance was knocked to the ground after being hit by a bottle.
"The situations we were put in went beyond losing your cool," Thompson said, according to The Post. "It went to, 'I need to protect myself.' That got to a level above and beyond competition and competing, and 'Oh, this is a rough day. The calls aren't going my way.' At the end of the day, you have to protect yourself."
Thompson and two Hoyas players met with members of the Bayi Rockets on Friday morning at the Beijing airport, sharing "a very cordial and friendly meeting" in which handshakes and autographed balls were exchanged, according to a statement released by Georgetown.
"Once it got out of hand, I was in great fear for everyone associated with Georgetown University, because if you look at it in terms of sheer numbers, we were very much outnumbered," Thompson said, according to The Post. "Once it got to that point, once all the skirmishes had ended, my only thought was to get our fans, our players, our family, our friends out of this building as soon as possible."
Georgetown next plays Sunday in Shanghai, where it will face the Shandong Flaming Bulls. The goodwill games coincide with U.S. Vice
President Joe Biden's visit to the country.
"My understanding is that it's all cleared up," Chinese vice foreign minsiter Cui Tiankai told reporters at a briefing. "We're pleased about this outcome."
The melee was the latest instance of on-court fighting by China, whose players have been fined tens of thousands of dollars by the world and Asian federations for scrapping with opponents.
Georgetown is in China on a 10-day trip that has been cited by the U.S. State Department as an example of sports diplomacy that strengthens ties between the two countries. The Hoyas were briefed by the State Department ahead of their departure on what to expect during its trip to Beijing and Shanghai, according to news releases on the university's website.
Georgetown school president John DeGioia, speaking Friday at a Shanghai welcome reception for the team, expressed disappointment but tempered it with optimism.
"Our men's basketball program represents the very best of Georgetown, and the character of our program was evident this morning when our coach John Thompson III and two of our young men, Jason Clark and Hollis Thompson, met with the head coach and counterparts from the Bayi Rockets, the team we played last night in Beijing," DeGioia said. "We regret that last night's game ended as it did. I am proud of the manner in which we sought reconciliation through the sportsmanship demonstrated this morning."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner called it an "unfortunate" incident.
Dana O'Neil covers college basketball for ESPN.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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