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Andy Katz | Correspondent | February 10, 2020

Humanity shown in Colorado-Stanford game takes center stage in emotion-filled weekend

Colorado holds off Stanford 81-74

Butler’s Kamar Baldwin hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to knock off Villanova in an epic ending.

Duke came back against North Carolina not once, but twice, by converting on missed shots — the first on a free throw and follow by Tre Jones to send the game into overtime and then the second on a Jones miss and Wendell Moore Jr. bucket at the buzzer.

Hall of Fame coach Bob Knight, a polarizing but towering figure in Indiana basketball history, returned to Assembly Hall for the first time since 2000. Surrounded by players from the ‘70s, ’80’s and ‘90s, the 79-year old Knight was greeted with a standing ovation. Emotion overcame Knight and his former players in a show of unity not seen in Bloomington for 20 years.

And yet — as tremendous as those three events were in the sport last week — none matched the humanity shown by Colorado and Stanford in Boulder.

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The credit for the word humanity goes to veteran Pac-12 Network announcer Ted Robinson's description of the event. This wasn’t sportsmanship. That word, albeit a good description for doing the right thing, doesn’t do this justice.

This was humanity, a show of caring about one another as human beings in a time when there definitely is a need for more of it on a daily basis.

And this is how it unfolded.

Colorado’s Evan Battey came up with a steal and was heading down court.

Battey, a 6-8, 262-pound third-year sophomore, has been through something most people his age never experience. He had a stroke and two seizures in 2017. Let that sink in for a moment and then realize how fortunate he is and how much he is thankful that he has been able to play college basketball the past two seasons.

So, when Stanford’s Oscar da Silva, a 6-9 junior from Germany who is fluent in six languages and has been a model for Stanford players to follow, tried to chase him down, the two collided by the Buffaloes basket. Battey’s elbow caught da Silva’s face as he slammed to the floor. The side of his head made contact with the floor without anything to brace or buffer the force.

Da Silva didn’t move. Battey was immediately overcome. Colorado’s McKinley Wright IV, who was trailing the play, said after the game that he saw, “Oscar’s head bleeding and his eyes starting to roll back into his head. I just got down on my knees and said a prayer.’’

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Da Silva was tended to and ultimately escorted off the floor, able to walk on his own but headed to the hospital for observation where he was diagnosed with a head laceration. He received stitches and on Sunday Stanford announced he was doing well with a timeline to return to the court still to be determined.

But what transpired as soon as da Silva left the floor was the organic, unscripted “humanity” we all need.

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Wright said after the game that Battey has the biggest heart of anyone he has ever met. That’s understandable since he has a second chance not many get in life when dealing with such a harsh health crisis.

Battey was sobbing and couldn’t gather himself. Colorado coach Tad Boyle told Wright to gather everyone together and say a prayer. Wright didn’t just grab his teammates, he huddled with Stanford’s team and its head coach Jerod Haase, before Boyle came to the side of the mid-court huddle as well.

“I saw how shook up Evan was,’’ Boyle said Sunday. “I told McKinley to get them together. It was spontaneous, not choreographed. Both teams connected.

“Everybody who knows Evan knows how special person he is, a caring human being,’’ said Boyle. “He’s like that in his everyday life. Nobody appreciates being on the basketball court like him.’’

The Boulder crowd continued to cheer. Battey still couldn’t settle down and ultimately had to go into the locker room where his mother met with him to calm him.

Haase said Sunday he has so much respect for Boyle and how he runs his program, saying he does things right.

“Sportsmanship isn’t the right word (for what happened),’’ said Haase. “It was human decency. This was a human story, not sportsmanship. There were real emotions with real people. There was so much high character on both teams.’’

Haase said it was hard to concentrate on the rest of the game, which ultimately ended in a comeback 81-74 win for first-place Colorado.

“(Da Silva) is an absolute leader,’’ said Haase of the Cardinal's leading scorer. “He’s as a steady person as you can imagine. It shook our team. But we did a great job through a tough situation. I couldn’t be more proud of our team and how we have handled and responded well in tough times.’’

Battey did a postgame interview with the Pac-12 Network and then again in a post-game news conference with his teammates. He was still emotional, tearing up, over what had occurred.

“I had to go into the locker room for five or 10 minutes, trying to debrief and get my head together,’’ Battey said in a news conference after the game. “As the game went on, I was still praying, still saying prayers. When I hit that three, I was shedding tears as well. It was an emotional game all the way through and I don’t know how we played when I went into the locker room, I don’t know how Stanford played, but I know how I played, and I played for Oscar. My mom came back into the locker room because I couldn’t calm down, I couldn’t stop hyperventilating. She was telling me to calm down and she knows me the best, she just told me, ‘You’re going to be alright,' and I just went out and played.”

The Buffaloes won an important conference game Saturday. But humanity and decency won the moment, the day, and the week.

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