New Mexico State suspended guard K.C. Ross-Miller for actions that touched off a wild brawl between players and fans following a game between the Aggies and Utah Valley.
A league spokesman said the Western Athletic Conference was also looking into the incident.
Ross-Miller hurled the ball at Utah Valley’s Holton Hunsaker seconds after the Wolverines’ 66-61 victory over the Aggies on Thursday night in Orem, Utah. The ball hit Hunsaker — the son of Utah Valley coach Dick Hunsaker — in the leg. Some of the fans who rushed the court got caught up in the melee.
New Mexico State guard DK Eldridge was in the middle of the scrum before he was dragged away by Aggies coaches as order was restored. With the victory, the Wolverines claimed the top spot in the conference standings.
While the brawl appeared to have been touched off by Ross-Miller’s actions, it highlights the potential problems that can occur when players and fans collide.
Oklahoma State All-American guard Marcus Smart charged into the stands at Texas Tech on Feb. 8 and shoved a fan who called him a "piece of crap." Smart was suspended for three games and the fan later apologized.
Also earlier this month, Oregon coach Dana Altman expressed concerns about safety after two of his staffers said an Arizona State student spit at them at halftime of the game in Tempe, Ariz. Ducks guard Jason Calliste had a verbal confrontation with at least one student late in the first half.
Aggies coach Marvin Menzies said he suspended Ross-Miller indefinitely pending review by the school and the conference. The junior starter averages 8.3 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists.
"No matter what provoked K.C. what he did was inexcusable and hence the suspension. It is an honor and a privilege to wear an Aggie uniform and a responsibility comes with that privilege," Menzies said in a statement Friday.
WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd is expected to speak later Friday with Menzies about the incident.
"I don’t like to use military terms, but that was combative," Dick Hunsaker told the Utah Valley student newspaper. Utah Valley officials did not immediately respond to The Associated Press for comment on Friday.
The Wolverines did issue a brief statement via Twitter: "The incident following Thursday’s game was an unfortunate and sour endnote to an otherwise brilliant performance by both teams. The Western Athletic Conference and both universities are reviewing the incident and gathering information. Any questions should be directed to the WAC office."
The game between the WAC co-leaders at the UCCU center was attended by a season-high 4,954 fans.
"I would like to commend my staff for their immediate reaction to engage our players and remove them from the floor. We are currently reviewing several sources of video to accurately assess the situation," Menzies said. "Obviously this was a very unfortunate incident and I’m hopeful that we can learn from it moving forward."
Utah Valley’s Ben Aird scored 21 points and Keawe Enos hit three free throws with 4 seconds left in regulation to force overtime and made four more in the last 11 seconds of the extra session. He finished with 11 points for the Wolverines (17-10, 11-3), and Zach Nelson added 10.
Daniel Mullings led the Aggies (21-9, 10-4) with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Sim Bhullar had 10 points, 14 rebounds and six blocks.
Eldridge’s 3-pointer put New Mexico State up 56-55 with 3:26 left in overtime, but Utah Valley scored seven straight, four from Aird, who had six in overtime.
Mullings later told Menzies he was hit by a fan in the postgame melee, and a Utah Valley student claimed that he was slugged in the head by an Aggies player. However, no injuries were reported.
Utah Valley is atop the WAC standings going into Saturday’s home game against Texas Pan-American. New Mexico State visits Bakersfield on Saturday.