INDIANAPOLIS – Gonzaga and USC hadn’t played four minutes of their Elite Eight matchup at Lucas Oil Stadium when one of the most frightening moments of the 2021 NCAA Tournament transpired in front of the Bulldogs’ bench.
The Trojans had possession of the ball when official Bert Smith collapsed just behind the baseline adjacent to the Gonzaga bench. Bulldogs assistant coach Tommy Lloyd was the first to check on Smith, who was immediately surrounded by arena staff members.
A stretcher was brought onto the floor and Smith was escorted off the court into a locker room, where he was tended to by trainers according to the TBS broadcast. Smith was sitting up on the stretcher and responsive as he was carted off the floor.
At halftime, Gonzaga coach Mark Few had a chance to poke his head into the locker room Smith was taken to and check on the longtime official.
“First of all, I’ve heard he’s doing OK. I could use an update,” Few said. “He’s a great official, great person and I was just shocked and scared for him. I was able to stick my head in there a little bit and see that he was talking and coherent. Tried to say a quick prayer for him and just wished him the best.”
Though the moment shook up members of both teams, Gonzaga’s play didn’t dip when the game resumed. The Bulldogs closed out the half strong to take a 49-30 lead into the halftime break.
“Just told the guys we needed to keep doing what we were doing prior to that,” Few said. “I think they did a good job not only after that pause but at halftime to keep going.”
According to TBS, Smith’s condition was stable while he was in the locker room and he didn’t need to be transported to the hospital. The game continued with an alternate official, Tony Henderson, taking Smith’s place.
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