By now the footage of the post-game brawl that marred a competitive game between New Mexico State and Utah Valley has made the rounds, with the incident masking the fact that the Wolverines took a step towards the WAC regular season title with a 66-61 overtime victory.
What got things going in the wrong direction was New Mexico State guard KC Ross-Miller throwing the basketball at Utah Valley’s Holton Hunsaker just after the final horn, leaving members of both teams scrambling to either defend their teammates or diffuse a potentially explosive situation. Add in the students rushing the floor to celebrate with the team and sure enough punches were thrown by Aggie players and even a couple Utah Valley fans.
Friday afternoon the WAC announced that Ross-Miller would be suspended two games and teammate Renaldo Dixon one due to their roles in the melee. Both players will miss Saturday’s game against Bakersfield, with Ross-Miller also suspended for the Aggies’ game against Grand Canyon on March 6.
“There obviously is no place in the Western Athletic Conference or intercollegiate athletics as a whole for the unfortunate events that took place at the conclusion of Thursday night’s game,” WAC commissioner Jeff Hurd said in a statement announcing the suspensions. “And I appreciate the excellent cooperation that I have received from both institutions in my review of what occurred.”
“While the suspensions handed down are appropriate for the actions of the involved student-athletes, there will be a continued review of other incidents that occurred as a result of fans rushing the court. There are obvious safety and security issues that need to be addressed, and I also have requested additional games management information from Utah Valley University.
“Finally, the situation could have been much worse if it had not been for outstanding effort of both the New Mexico State and Utah Valley coaching staffs. They were instrumental in separating their student-athletes from what could have been an even uglier situation.”
As for the fans, once again whether or not they should be allowed to rush the court is a topic of discussion. But instead of debating which programs should do it, the debate centers on fan/player safety and whether or not schools do enough to ensure no interactions between fans and visiting players. And in some circles, there’s a desire to see the NCAA ban court storming once and for all.
The injury Stephen Zimmerman suffered on Saturday will keep the star UNLV freshman out for at least a week, a source told NBC Sports.
The injury is not thought to be serious, however. Zimmerman may be kept out for longer as a precaution, but that’s a result of the Runnin’ Rebels being in a situation where the rest of their regular season is relatively meaningless.
They’re not getting an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament regardless of how they finish out league play. With back-up center Ben Carter out with a torn ACL, it’s more important to make sure that Zimmerman, who is averaging 10.6 points and 9.1 boards this season, is totally healthy for the Mountain West tournament.
That tournament, mind you, will be played at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center.
So the Runnin’ Rebels, regardless of how poor they’ve played this season, will always have a chance to land an automatic bid.
Anyway, the more interesting aspect of this story is how Zimmerman injured the knee. It was a completely avoidable play that came after the whistle, but I’m not sure it was what you would call a “dirty play”. You tell me:
With a little more than three minutes left on Monday night, No. 24 Texas held a 57-51 lead on No. 3 Oklahoma in Norman as Jordan Woodard struggled again and Buddy Hield failed to find the rhythm that he had throughout the first three months of the season.
At that point in the game, Hield was 4-for-14 from the floor with 15 points and four turnovers. He had just missed a pair of wide-open threes
“I couldn’t make a shot,” Hield said after the game. But that changed down the stretch. First, Hield finally got a three to drop. On the next possession, he got all the way to the rim and scored. On the following two possessions, he was fouled on a drive to the rim and hit four free throws. And after missing a pull-up jumper, Hield did this:
“I told coach I wanted the ball,” Hield said, “I saw Lammert coming to bite, so I pulled up.”
“It’s all money.”
Hield is already the favorite to win National Player of the Year, and this performance is only going to help his cause further. Think about it like this: Buddy was not good on Monday night, at least according to his (admittedly lofty) standards. But he still finished with 27 points and shook off a cold shooting night just in time to take over down the stretch.
Now think about this: Hield’s head coach has enough confidence in him to hand him the keys in the final minutes despite the fact that he’s struggling and on a team that has two other players that Lon Kruger trusts on game-winning possessions. Think about it. When Oklahoma beat West Virginia at the buzzer, it was Jordan Woodard that the play was drawn up for. When they beat LSU, it was Isaiah Cousins that got the rock on the final possession while Hield was used as a decoy. .
Want to talk about coaching luxuries?
Kruger has three guards that can shoot, penetrate and score, and penetrate and kick, and one of them is the National Player of the Year that doesn’t mind being used as a decoy.