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Gonzaga Basketball

Gonzaga men’s basketball announces no games through Dec. 14 due to COVID-19 concerns

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few and assistant coach Tommy Lloyd watch the action during the second half of the 2020 WCC tournament title game against Saint Mary's.  (By Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Gonzaga is shutting down men’s basketball games through Dec. 14 because of COVID-19 concerns, erasing Tuesday night’s home opener and the busiest stretch on its schedule.

The school made the announcement Sunday, one day after the top-ranked Zags’ showdown against No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis was called off after one GU player and one staff member tested positive.

“We decided that this was in the best interest of our student-athletes,” athletic director Mike Roth said in a text message. “The health and safety of our players is our top priority. This decision was made with an abundance of caution in mind. This has been a very difficult decision, but we have all agreed that it’s the correct decision.”

Roth said Saturday, after the Baylor game was postponed, that Gonzaga was discussing the status of upcoming games with school officials, medical staff and the Spokane Regional Health District.

The Zags, after three wins on neutral courts, were scheduled to entertain Tarleton State on Tuesday, Southern University on Thursday, Northern Arizona on Saturday and Idaho on Monday, Dec. 14.

Gonzaga’s next scheduled game is Dec. 19 against No. 3 Iowa at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The Zags’ home opener now becomes Northwestern State on Dec. 21.

After numerous COVID-forced revisions, Gonzaga put together a nonconference schedule with 11 games, including six home dates. Following Sunday’s announcement, that number is down to six games, including two at the McCar- they Athletic Center.

However, Gonzaga coach Mark Few and Baylor counterpart Scott Drew both said they believe the game will be rescheduled at a later date. Finding a date that works for both programs could take some work, with GU scheduled to open West Coast Conference play on Jan. 2 while Baylor opens Big 12 play against Texas next Sunday.

“It’s a cumulative thing, Baylor has experienced it themselves,” Roth said Saturday, referring to Drew testing positive about four days before his team’s scheduled season opener. “There’s no denying the numbers (nationally) have jumped significantly. As great as it would have been to play the (Baylor) game, the safety and in some ways societal view of this is important.

“We’ve tried to dot every I and cross every T, and we’ve still had positive cases. I try to be glass half full, but in this case, as hard as it is, maybe this was a helpful thing for people who are paying attention or maybe need to pay attention. We all need to do better.”

Barring an addition or rescheduled game, Gonzaga will go 16 days between games before its matchup with Iowa. Finals week from Dec. 14-18 falls in the latter part of that lengthy break.

Gonzaga is the third WCC men’s program to hit the pause button due to COVID-19 issues. Pacific announced Friday it was shutting down team activities for 14 days and canceled games against Westmont and San Jose State. San Diego suspended basketball activities on Nov. 20 for two weeks. The Toreros’ first three games were canceled, and they’re expected to open the season against UCLA on Wednesday.

Through the first 11 days of the season, approximately 21% of college basketball games have been postponed or canceled, according to CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish.

Idaho, roughly 85 miles from Spokane, figures to be the easiest to reschedule of the four home games impacted by Sunday’s announcement.

The Zags returned Saturday from a 13-day road trip to Fort Myers, Florida, and Indianapolis. In Florida, one GU player and one staff member tested positive and were isolated in their Fort Myers hotel rooms, and one player and two staff members identified through contact tracing were in quarantine.

The Fort Myers Tip-Off games went on as scheduled after consultations between the schools’ medical staffs, tournament administrators and Florida health officials. GU defeated Kansas and Auburn.

Gonzaga traveled to Indianapolis last Monday and edged No. 11 West Virginia 87-82 on Wednesday.

The Baylor game was called off about 90 minutes before tip-off following the positive tests of a GU player and staff member. Those two remain in Indianapolis under COVID-19 protocols.

Of the four still in Florida, two are expected to return Monday and two on Tuesday. One player was permitted to travel by automobile to Indianapolis and fly with the team to Spokane on Saturday.