Evan Battey’s emotions were still racing when he went through his post game press conference on Saturday. Coach Tad Boyle’s eyes were red as he fought back tears a couple of times during his media session.
Colorado won a basketball game, 81-74 against Stanford, that keeps the Buffaloes atop the Pac-12 Conference standings.
The game, however, will be remembered for a scary moment early in the second half that turned into a remarkable display of sportsmanship.
With 16 minutes, 28 seconds to play, Battey, the Buffs’ 6-foot-8, 262-pound forward, got a steal near midcourt and rumbled down court for a layup attempt. Stanford’s star, 6-foot-8, 225-pound Oscar da Silva, went up with Battey to defend the play.
The two big men crashed into each other and to the ground, with Battey’s elbow hitting da Silva’s head. Da Silva was knocked out, suffered a head laceration and did not return to the game.
“It was emotional because I looked over and saw Oscar’s head bleeding and his eyes start to roll back,” CU’s McKinley Wright said. “I didn’t know what happened.”
Da Silva remained on the ground for several minutes and at one point medical personnel brought a stretcher out for him, but he did get up and walk off the court with assistance.
Battey, meanwhile, was on the ground for a few moments, but was an emotional wreck for several minutes.
“I wasn’t banged up at all; it was all emotional,” Battey said. “I’m a big dude, so nothing really hurts me, but the fact that I had my eyes closed when I went up and I think I elbowed him in his face … I just saw his reaction. I saw the way he was laying there and I just broke down.”
The crowd gave da Silva a standing ovation as he left the court, while players who were on the court from both teams, as well as Stanford coach Jerod Haase, gathered together in an embrace near midcourt.
“Coach Boyle wanted me to call both teams together and say a prayer with both teams,” Wright said. “We got together and coach Haase said what he had to say – told us to keep playing hard – and then I led the prayer and thanked God that he was OK and that it wasn’t worse than what it was.”
After the game, Haase said he believed da Silva got stitches and that “he’ll be fine at some point.” He was also touched by the emotional moment between the teams.
“I think it was a great show of unity,” Haase said. “I have a great deal of respect for the Colorado basketball program. Coach Boyle is first class and I think everything you saw out there was genuine and real. I think this game represents what’s right about college basketball in a concerning time for our sport. Although it was a tough game for us, it was fun to watch two teams just compete as hard as they could.
“(After da Silva’s injury, Boyle) talked about getting the team together. His team was also very emotional and especially a couple of his guys, so we just wanted to get a quick moment together. I definitely have to give coach Boyle the credit for that moment; he was able to see the situation and handle it in a real classy way.”
Boyle said he had never been a part of moment like that during a game.
“No, I haven’t,” he said. “It was emotional. I think the way their coaches and their players responded and the way our players responded was really special.”
Battey, who was fouled on the play, was too distraught to continue playing in that moment and left the court. D’Shawn Schwartz went to the free throw line for Battey, who went to the locker room for several minutes.
“I had to go in the locker room for five or 10 minutes and debrief and get my head together,” he said.
Battey’s mother went to the locker room at that time to see her son.
“She came back because I couldn’t calm down,” Battey said. “I couldn’t stop breathing out of control. I was hyperventilating. She just told me calm down. She knows me the best; I’m her son. She just told me he’s going to be all right and I just went out there and played.”
That Battey took da Silva’s injury so hard didn’t surprise Wright.
“I’ve known Evan for three years now and the dude has the biggest heart of anybody I’ve ever met, including my family,” Wright said. “I’ve never met somebody with a heart like his. He didn’t do it on purpose at all.”
With 13:15 to play, Battey emerged from the locker room and checked back into the game. The Buffs, who trailed by as many as 16 points, had whittled the deficit to six by that point.
Battey, playing through tears, scored seven of his 13 points in the next few minutes, including a 3-pointer that gave CU a 56-54 lead with 8:31 to play. It was just the seventh 3-pointer of Battey’s CU career.
“You could see as the game went on I was still crying, shedding tears,” he said. “When I hit that 3, I was shedding tears, as well. It was an emotional game for me, the whole way through. I don’t know what happened when I went in the locker room. I don’t know how we played after that, how Stanford played; all I know is how I played and I played for Oscar.”