Things got heated in the tropics Wednesday night, with the third-place game at the Maui Invitational between No. 17 San Diego State and No. 9 Arkansas ending in an on-court fracas involving fans and Razorbacks coach Eric Musselman.
Arena security intervened, and Maui police were called.
“There was an isolated incident following the game this evening,” the tournament said in a statement. “Security acted quickly and appropriately to immediately remove those involved from the arena.”
It happened in the moments following the final buzzer of a 78-74 Arkansas overtime victory at the 2,400-seat Lahaina Civic Center, an intimate venue where fans sit just feet from the court that is more high school gym than college arena. As the teams walked through the handshake line at midcourt, Arkansas coach Eric Musselman engaged in an expletive-laced confrontation with SDSU fans sitting behind the Aztecs bench.
“There was just an Aztec fan that came down and said some things,” Musselman said in the post-game news conference. “There were words exchanged.”
As Musselman was pulled away by his staff, he flashed an “L” with his fingers on his forehead – the sign for loser – and, according to multiple witnesses, screamed, “Go (expletive) yourself.” He also appeared to have an exchange with SDSU guard Matt Bradley, who knocked over a chair in anger.
Soon, fans – including at least one parent of an SDSU player – spilled out of the stands onto the court and moved toward the Arkansas coaches as security ushered them to their locker room.
At the entrance to SDSU’s locker room, a fan wearing an Arkansas shirt was repelled by security and escorted away.
Asked about what happened, SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said: “I don’t know, I don’t know. I was already through (the handshake line). I just tell our kids, I tell them every year, I tell them every month: ‘You represent yourself first, your family second, and this university and athletic program third. Don’t do anything that would embarrass any of us.’ That’s a message I deliver every year to our guys, and I think they do a good job of holding that up. They represent themselves with a lot of class.”
Arkansas was leaving directly after the game for the airport and a red-eye charter flight to Fayetteville. SDSU is staying in Maui for Thanksgiving and flying home Friday.
It is not the first time Musselman has been involved in a handshake line confrontation with a Mountain West team. While coaching Nevada in 2019 at Utah State, the staffs exchanged words and a Nevada player allegedly shattered the glass case holding a fire extinguisher outside the locker room.
The Mountain West investigated and determined the incident was not caused by the court rush from Utah State fans following the win but by “inappropriate conduct by individuals from both programs in the post-game handshake line.”