SHANGHAI — Playing for the first time since its exhibition game in Beijing against a Chinese military team ended in a benches-clearing melee that generated international attention, the Georgetown men’s basketball team received a considerably more hospitable reception here on Sunday afternoon during the second leg of its goodwill tour of China.
The Hoyas participated in the first of two games over five days in the country’s most populous city, where an overflow crowd packed the outdoor court at the Nike sports festival next to Shanghai Stadium and greeted Coach John Thompson III and his players with rousing applause.
Georgetown continued its goodwill basketball tour of China days after an ugly bench-clearing incident in a game in Beijing marred the tour. (Aug. 21)
The Washington Post's Gene Wang reports from Beijing following a melee that ended an exhibition game between the Bayi Military Rockets and the Georgetown Hoyas. (Aug 18)
“It’s a relief,” Thompson said. “It would be misleading to say if the last few days haven’t been trying and stressful.”
The enthusiastic response represented another step in moving beyond the acrimony immediately following Thursday’s matchup against the Bayi Rockets of the Chinese Basketball Association. That game concluded prematurely when Thompson pulled his team off the Olympic Sports Stadium court with 9 minutes 32 seconds to play, the game tied at 64 and circumstances nothing short of bedlam.
Thompson made the decision in the din of a brawl that included players wielding chairs and stanchions as weapons and unruly Chinese fans storming the court. Even when Georgetown players and staff tried to exit the playing area peacefully, they had to dodge full plastic water bottles hurled at them from the stands one night after Vice President Biden attended the opener of what was billed as the “China-U.S. Friendship Basketball Match.”
The atmosphere for Sunday’s 91-69 victory over the Liaoning Dinosaurs, also of the CBA, was as soothing as Thursday’s events were jarring. Players from both teams greeted one another warmly before tip-off during a gift exchange, and on-court activity more closely resembled what Georgetown officials had hoped for during this 10-day trip designed to promote the school’s brand internationally through athletic, cultural and educational exchange and outreach.
Even though officials called Georgetown for nearly three times as many fouls as Liaoning, they managed to keep the game under control to the point where players never offered so much as an unfriendly glance at one another. The only roughhousing came with 8:26 to play in the first half, when sophomore forward Nate Lubick got an inadvertent arm to the face while running the baseline under the basket.
But immediately after the contact, Dinosaurs forward Xu Lixiao walked over to Lubick to make sure he wasn’t hurt and offered a pat on the back. Lubick responded in kind, and the game continued without incident.
“I don’t know how grandiose you want to make it and start talking about the two countries, but our guys have some small semblance of understanding of how everything we do is watched, is viewed, and how you can have an impact on your surroundings,” Thompson said. “You can have an impact and an influence on many different facets that a lot of those guys and myself included don’t really think about until something like that happens, and you realize that the world is watching.”