Moments after his team fell out of first place in the WAC with a 66-61 overtime loss at Utah Valley on Thursday night, New Mexico State guard K.C. Ross-Miller lost control of his emotions.
The 6-foot-1 junior picked up the ball as the final buzzer sounded and chucked it at Utah Valley guard Holton Hunsaker. The two players then exchanged words as Utah Valley fans flooded the court in celebration of the victory, leading to a wild mid-court melee involving fans and several New Mexico State players.
Video replays appear to show at least one Aggies player taking a wild swing at a fan who attacked teammate Daniel Mullings and others having to be yanked out of the scrum by teammates or coaches. Utah Valley sports information director Clint Burgi provided the above video late Thursday night and said he had not yet heard of any injuries.
"'I want to apologize for K.C.'s actions," New Mexico State coach Marvin Menzies said in a post-game interview posted to the school's athletics site. "From what I understand, he threw the ball after the game was over and had expired. I don't know what provoked it. I mean, Hunsaker's a little chippy himself so he may have said something or done something, but you just can't respond. We showed them plenty of clips where they do things that can get underneath your skin a little bit and you've got to be tougher than that mentally, and I'm just upset that he did that.''
Menzies said he will review film of the incident before determining potential penalties for Ross-Miller and other players, but he promised "they will be punished to the 10th degree" if he deems their actions worthy.
"That may affect wins and losses but they need to learn some life lessons after something like that," Menzies said. "That's not going to happen in my program. It's just embarrassing."
The skirmish between New Mexico State players and Utah Valley fans likely will intensify the push to ban court storming in college basketball because of the safety hazard. Critics of court storming have long cited injuries suffered by fans who have been trampled and the potential for altercations between frustrated visiting players and unruly spectators.
In mid-January, a photo surfaced of Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison exchanging words with a taunting Arkansas fan after the Razorbacks' win over the Wildcats in Fayetteville. Two years earlier, Jared Sullinger said a Wisconsin fan spit on him during the celebration after the Badgers upset Ohio State.
Judging from the video and an eyewitness account from Burgi, what provoked Thursday's fight was not anything a fan did but rather Ross-Miller's decision to hurl the ball at an opposing player. Nonetheless, the incident surely would have dissipated quicker had the on-rushing fans not been there to further incite the situation and to trade haymakers with the Aggies players.
The skirmish mars a significant victory for a Utah Valley program hoping to make its first NCAA tournament appearance next month. New Mexico State (21-9, 10-4) has earned NCAA bids three of the past four years and was a heavy favorite to win the WAC entering the season, but Utah Valley (17-10, 11-3) holds a one-game lead with two games to play in the regular season.