College Basket-Brawls Mirror A Nation In A State Of Unrest

2016 was a tough year.

This past year tested our human nature, as hate seemed to trump all other emotions.

This past month has tested our political tolerance as a new administration takes over, breeding fear and uncertainty of what is to come.

The fear and frustration felt by many Americans, as well as the feeling of a loss of control, manifest in different ways. Some people protest, others take to social media to share their thoughts and anxieties, and some people even resort to physical aggression as a form of venting.

When those emotions have nowhere else to go, sometimes they become uncontrollable, which could explain the recent rash of basket-brawls on the collegiate hardwood.

Sometimes art imitates life, and it’s not always pretty.

Missouri vs. Georgia

This SEC match-up took a turn for the worst right before halftime, as Georgia’s director of operations, Kent Davison, and Mizzou’s assistant coach Steve Shields got into an altercation. It started with players from both teams getting chippy right before half, and when the coaches stepped in to separate the players, they ended up getting into a shoving match of their own. Davison and Shields were both issued technical fouls, and Georgia ended up winning the game 71-66.

Utah State vs. UNLV

Women’s Mountain West hoops joined the fray when a fight between two players, UNLV’s Katie Powell and Utah State’s Antonia Robinson tuned into a bench-clearing, vicious brawl. The referee ejected eight players for leaving the bench during a fracas, per NCAA rules, but neither Powell nor Robinson were kicked out. UNLV eventually edged Utah State 55-53 in overtime.

Rider vs. Sienna

With two minutes left to go in this MAAC game, a fight broke out among the players on the court after Sienna’s Khalil Richard fouled Rider’s Stevie Jordan hard on an attempted alley-oop. Pretty soon players and coaches joined the fray, and eventually Sienna’s Marquis Wright and Rider’s Anthony Durham were ejected for throwing punches while both head coaches had to be physically restrained.

Sienna ended up defeating Rider 78-68, and as the Sienna players lined up to shake hands, the Rider players and coaches decided to head to the locker room instead. This prompted Sienna head coach Jimmy Patsos to walk through an imaginary line shaking hands with invisible people. Rider head coach Kevin Baggett explained to ESPN his reasons for leaving the court without the handshake ritual.

“I decided not to shake hands, because I didn’t want anything to escalate again between the teams,” Baggett said. “That’s my prerogative — to protect my team whether anyone else thinks it’s good sportsmanship or not.”

A similar view on the post-game handshake ritual during another particularly chippy game can be found here.

LeMoyne-Owen vs. Lane College

In what can only be described as the WWE of college basketball fights, this Division II game gone awry faced harsh consequences after the dust settled. The game was testy from the start between the two rival schools, and when a player was tripped, all hell broke loose. Players and fans stormed the court, fists swinging, and one fan even used a folding chair to assault a player. The game was postponed in the first quarter, and no makeup date has been set.

As a result of the fighting, 15 players were suspended. Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference officials said three players who “left the bench and were actively involved in the altercation” face five-game suspensions. Two players “directly involved in the incident” received three-game suspensions. Ten more players who left the bench were suspended two games. The conference is also fining both schools and head coaches an undisclosed amount. The Memphis Police Department is also investigating the incident.

There have also been isolated incidents, such as Duke’s Grayson Allen repeatedly tripping players and Oregon’s Dillon Brooks — taking a page out of Draymond Green’s playbook — kicking another college player in the groin.

Photo from the Comeback

With so much anger, fear and frustration infusing our great nation at this time, one can only hope that we as Americans can take comfort and find strength in one another — in our family, friends, neighbors and even teammates. Competition should always be fierce. But to quote one of the G.O.A.T.’s, Michael Jordan, “I’d take 12 guys who had a strong passion for the game over 12 guys who don’t respect the game.”

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