SHANGHAI: Andrew Andrews scored 23 points as the Washington Huskies defeated the Texas Longhorns 77-71 in Shanghai on Saturday, during the first-ever regular-season men’s NCAA basketball game in China.
Texas point guard and anticipated NBA draft pick Isiah Taylor led his team with 27 points and 8 rebounds, pulling the Longhorns to a 65-64 lead with 4:48 left on the clock.
However, Texas was only able to score two more field goals in the game’s fading minutes, as the Huskies took the lead and cemented the win in front of a sold-out crowd of 18,000 in Shanghai’s Mercedes-Benz Arena.
While the NBA enjoys widespread popularity in China and has hosted 20 exhibition games in the country since 2004, college basketball is less prominent.
“Seeing the smiles on fans’ faces was cool to see,” said Texas senior Javan Felix. “We share passion for the game from watching the NBA, which we all look up to, so there’s a connection between us and local athletes, too.”
The inaugural Pac-12 China Game was the season opener for both teams and was broadcast live in the United States on ESPN.
The game was the latest event in the Pacific-12 Conference’s Global Initiative programme that promotes goodwill while showcasing its member institutions in China through student-athlete exchanges and sport.
“We believe through the popularity of basketball and sports, that we can introduce academic excellence of our universities to aspiring students and their parents here in China and around the world,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott.
The Pac-12 China Game was co-hosted by the Federation of University Sports of China (FUSC), which operates under China’s Ministry of Education. E-commerce giant Alibaba Group was the presenting sponsor, while Chinese basketball legend Yao Ming was in attendance.
“The first ever regular season basketball game being played here is very exciting because people don’t understand that there’s a whole host of college athletics that Americans are crazy about,” said Alibaba Executive Vice Chairman Joe Tsai.
“These players are going to be the future stars in the NBA.”
In addition to the game, student-athletes and university delegations spent two-days visiting Alibaba’s headquarters in Hangzhou and participated in a series of cultural activities in Shanghai.
Officials have also announced that a Pac-12 China Game is scheduled for next year featuring Stanford and Harvard.