Bryant beats Wagner for NEC men's basketball title in game marred by fight in stands

Bryant on Tuesday night secured its first trip to the Division I NCAA men's basketball tournament, but its NEC championship game against Wagner was marred by a fight between fans in the stands late in the second half.

Peter Kiss, the nation's leading scorer, had 34 points to lead the Bulldogs past the Seahawks 70-43 in Smithfield, Rhode Island. It's the first NEC title for Bryant, which became postseason eligible in 2012-13 after transitioning to D-I.

The game was delayed for about 30 minutes with 4:37 remaining in the second half after a fight between fans behind the Wagner bench erupted. A small section of seats mostly occupied by Wagner fans sat next to Bryant's student's section and the contentious atmosphere led to a scuffle.

Local and state police were seen on the court as tensions calmed. Officials went to the replay monitors multiple times to see if any players from the schools entered the stands. None of the players or coaches made it into the stands, though Wagner guard Will Martinez attempted to and was ejected from the game. Several other players had to be restrained.

Bryant athletic director Bill Smith later addressed the crowd on the public address system, telling those in attendance that they could not storm the court -- the Bulldogs were well ahead at the time -- until after Wagner players and staff had exited the floor after the game.

"I didn't see any of it -- how any of that thing started," Smith said afterward, according to the The Providence Journal. "All I knew is we needed to finish the game in a first-class manner. Get both teams back on the court, shake hands at the end and finish the game.

"Unfortunately I don't think there was anything else we could have done that would have prevented what occurred. It's just been an incredible night and we're going to move on."

Added Bryant coach Jared Grasso: "I don't know how it started, why it started, what took place. Thankfully our guys were not a part of it."

Bryant (22-9) set the Division I program record for wins this season. Kiss made 13 of 23 from the field and 4 of 5 from 3-point range and finished with six rebounds, three assists and five steals. The senior has scored at least 25 points in 13 of his last 17 games and has scored at least 30 points 10 times this season.

Raekwon Rogers led seed Wagner (21-6) with 13 points on 6-of-8 shooting. The rest of the Seahawks shot 22% (11 of 50) from the field.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.