East and West converge at Lopata Classic

| Sports Reporter

Lingxu Zeng of Tsinghua University contests a reverse layup from senior Spencer Gay during an exhibition game on  Dec. 3.

Lingxu Zeng of Tsinghua University contests a reverse layup from senior Spencer Gay during an exhibition game on Dec. 3.

The 27th annual Lopata Classic basketball tournament featured one school playing its first game on United States soil.

Tsinghua University, a school from Beijing, China, played exhibition games against the Washington University men’s basketball team and Franklin & Marshall College on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4.

While Tsinghua fell to the Bears, 80-70 on Friday and the Diplomats, 93-78 on Saturday, its presence provided a unique cultural experience in which players and coaches could share different cultures and ways of playing basketball.

On Nov. 30, Tsinghua and the Bears shared a joint practice. During the practice, head coaches Bo Li of Tsinghua and Mark Edwards of Wash. U. each contributed elements from their own normal practice regimens, and the teams worked through the drills together.

“It was a really neat experience, and we found that it was a great way to break down communication barriers,” Edwards said.

Throughout the drills, the players noticed specific differences between the two teams’ styles of play. Tsinghua ran drills that emphasized conditioning and individual ability while Wash. U. highlighted team play.

“A lot of their offense is predicated on one-on-one skills and beating the man in front of you, whereas ours is more system-oriented,” junior co-captain Dylan Richter said.

In its two games, Tsinghua had some trouble adjusting to the standard American basketball rules. In China, basketball is played according to International Basketball Association (IBA) rules, which are subtly different from American standards.

Li explained that the biggest difference is that referees are much stricter about calling fouls in the U.S. than they are in China.

“When I am training my team, I want them to be tough on defense. I want them to be strong on impact,” Li said. “But every time we did that, the referees called a foul. But it’s okay. We have to shoot for the American rules.”

Richter thought that the most significant change for Tsinghua was the American style of defense in the paint.

“Their offense is based on them driving and kicking it out to an open shooter,” Richter said. “After they beat their one man, they’re not used to having more [defenders] there to help.”

Despite having a hard time adjusting to the American style of play, Li was still quick to praise the Bears and their strong effort in their victory over Tsinghua on Friday.

“We had a very good experience with them,” Li said. “They are good shooters. They play a very fundamental game.”

Overall, players and coaches agreed that this experiment with cultural immersion proved successful as far as giving the players a new perspective on aspects of life that go beyond just basketball.

“I think the players took away an appreciation for another team with another philosophy from another country with another ideology,” Edwards said. “To be able to come on the court and compete on even terms and still shake hands and walk away, gaining a respect for each other, I think that’s the number one basis for what sports can do.”

Li said that Tsinghua had such a positive experience that he would like to plan an event like this again in the future.

“We really enjoyed the experience here,” Li said. “All the players we have met, all the coaches, are very kind to us, so I would like to welcome them to my country, welcome them to my university.”

The Bears (3-3) will take the court tonight at 8 p.m. at home against Fontbonne University.

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