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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga, Baylor showdown called off after GU player, non-student-athlete test positive for COVID-19

Gonzaga coach Mark Few talks with his top-ranked Bulldogs during a first-half timeout in Wednesday’s nonconference win over West Virginia in Indianapolis.  (Associated Press)

No. 1 Gonzaga versus No. 2 Baylor, the most anticipated matchup of the young college basketball season, was postponed Saturday after one GU player and one traveling member who doesn’t play for the team tested positive for COVID-19.

The teams released a joint statement about 90 minutes before the 10 a.m. tip-off that the game had been called off, close to the same time the Baylor men’s basketball Twitter account posted pictures of Bears warming up at shootaround at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

It was a major letdown for fans awaiting the showdown, three days after both teams posted impressive wins at the same venue in Indianapolis. The 43rd matchup of AP top-two teams was scheduled to air nationally on CBS. Head coaches Mark Few (Gonzaga) and Scott Drew (Baylor) were optimistic a makeup date can be arranged.

“Very, very, very disappointed,” Few said in an interview on CBS, “but also there’s a resiliency that all us coaches realize that our players have. When you watch just how they deal with all the protocols put on them and what their lives are like, they’re totally isolated when we’re on the road, everybody has their own room, which is so different.

“I feel horrible for CBS and all the fans that were tuning in, but we’ll make it happen (at a later date).”

“We met right outside the elevators and they knew once I called that meeting it wasn’t good news,” Drew said of his team. “They were obviously devastated.”

The teams’ joint statement said the decision to postpone was reached “in consultation with the Indiana State Health Commissioner, the Marion County Public Health Director and both team physicians.”

The Gonzaga player who tested positive did not play in Wednesday’s win over No. 11 West Virginia.

Gonzaga has been hit hard by COVID-19 issues on its first road trip of the season. One player and one staff member tested positive and one player and two members of the travel party identified through contact tracing remained in Fort Myers, Florida, after the Zags opened the season with victories over Kansas on Nov. 26 and Auburn on Nov. 27.

GU Athletic Director Mike Roth said a decision will likely be made Monday on the status of Tuesday’s home opener against Tarleton State and if the team will pause basketball activities.

“We are already in the process of discussing that at Gonzaga, with our doctors and in consultation with Spokane Regional Health,” Roth said. “We’d love to play, and hopefully we’ll get to, but we don’t know that yet.”

The Zags also have home games Thursday vs. Southern, Saturday vs. Northern Arizona and Dec. 14 vs. Idaho.

The player and staff member with positive tests in Indianapolis will stay in isolation in Indy while the team returns to Spokane by charter flight later Saturday, Roth said.

One player quarantined due to contact tracing in Florida was allowed to join the team in Indianapolis via automobile and was expected to fly with the team to Spokane, Roth said. Of the other four (one player and three staff members) still in Florida, two are expected to return Monday and two on Tuesday, Roth said.

Baylor’s nonconference schedule has been adjusted several times due to COVID-19 concerns. Drew tested positive before the season, ultimately leading to the cancellation of scheduled games at the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut against Arizona State and either Villanova or Boston College.

Baylor’s road game against Seton Hall also was scrapped and the Bears ended up defeating Louisiana-Lafayette and Washington in Las Vegas.

Gonzaga was tested in Indianapolis twice prior to the West Virginia game and twice before Saturday’s contest.

“We’re trying to, again, do the right things the right way,” Roth said. “We didn’t get results until very early Spokane time and once that happened, we started getting everybody together, our staff, their staff, health authorities and started going through all information.

“It’s also looking at whole picture. This is something the Indianapolis health folks said they weren’t comfortable with the game going on, and we and Baylor agreed.”

Roth hopes the game can be rescheduled for later in the season.

“It was 1 vs. 2, everything college basketball is about, both teams were ready to go and it would have been a heck of a game,” Roth said. “As tough as it is, it’s still the right decision.”