NEW YORK - The crowd at the Barclays Center was in stunned silenced, looking at a referee lying on the floor after the opening tipoff of Vanderbilt's 68-55 win over La Salle in the consolation game of the Barclays Center Classic on Saturday.
There was about a 10-minute delay as referee Rick Crawford was taken off the court by stretcher to Brooklyn Hospital.
As horrifying as it looked, Crawford had comforting words when returning to the arena by game's end.
"I am good," he said.
Crawford was injured after tossing the opening tap and being elbowed inadvertently in the head by Vanderbilt center Damian Jones on his follow-through. Jones was jumping against La Salle center Steve Zack.
"I tossed the ball up, and the Vanderbilt player's elbow caught me on the side of the eye, and I went down and my head hit the floor," Crawford said.
Crawford added that he had no concussion symptoms and said he was conscious the entire time.
"I never felt like I blacked out and was aware of everything around me, which is good," he said.
Both teams were shaken up.
"That transcends any basketball score when you talk about a person's life," La Salle coach John Giannini said. "I saw his wife going out with him on the stretcher. To say we were concerned is an understatement."
Giannini put the situation in perspective
"Basketball is the toy department of life. It is entertainment, it's fun, it is taken seriously and builds character and shapes your life, but nonetheless it is a game," he said. "When you see somebody go off the court on a stretcher, that is not a game, that is a family and a life that you are worried about, and I am just so happy that he is OK."
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said that Jones, who ended with 16 points and seven rebounds, felt terribly even though it was an accident.
"I was surprised he played as well as he did because he was really shook up about hitting the official, and obviously it was very unintentional," Kevin Stallings said. "And we're glad to hear Rick is OK, and hopefully he will be back officiating very soon."