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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Gonzaga-Washington game called off as Huskies recover from COVID-19 outbreak

UPDATED: Thu., Dec. 9, 2021

Gonzaga's Anton Watson, center, tries to keep the ball between Washington's Hameir Wright (13) and Sam Timmins in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Seattle.   (Associated Press)
Gonzaga's Anton Watson, center, tries to keep the ball between Washington's Hameir Wright (13) and Sam Timmins in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019, in Seattle.  (Associated Press)

Gonzaga won’t play Washington on Sunday after lingering COVID-19 issues forced the Huskies to cancel a nationally televised game at McCarthey Athletic Center, but the Bulldogs haven’t ruled out finding another opponent at a later date to fill the open slot on their schedule.

A school release suggested the Bulldogs and Huskies won’t make up their own game this season. Gonzaga Athletic Director Chris Standiford told The Spokesman-Review Thursday night the schools would likely “push back” the four-game series that was finalized in 2019.

If both schools agree to amend the contract, the Huskies would come to Spokane for the 2022-23 and 2024-25 seasons and the Bulldogs would make the trip to Seattle in 2023-24 and 2025-26. Gonzaga and Washington played the final game of their previous four-year series in 2019, with the Bulldogs winning 83-76.

“What I would anticipate is going to happen is we’ll maintain the contract and just move the dates forward a year and leave the cadence,” Standiford said. “So, you just extend it a year. Obviously, it’s not been contracted, the change hasn’t taken place, so you have to go through that process with them. I have great confidence, we’ll work in good faith with them and vice versa.”

The cancellation means Gonzaga (7-2) will have played just one game – Thursday’s 80-55 win over Merrimack – in a span of 15 days. Before Thursday, the Bulldogs last played on Saturday in Seattle, losing to Alabama 91-82 at Climate Pledge Arena, and aren’t scheduled to play again until Dec. 18 against Texas Tech in Phoenix.

Standiford and Gonzaga coach Mark Few both said the Bulldogs will try to make up the 11th game on the schedule against another opponent, though Few indicated it was unlikely to happen prior to next week’s neutral-site showdown against Texas Tech.

“We’ll try, we’re going to try, we need to try,” Few said. “Obviously, the more games the better. It’s just hard and this is really hard. That was a national ESPN game. Those are big games and we’ve shown we can really drive up the viewing numbers, if you look at our numbers lately.

“So, we’ll see. We’ll see if anybody has anything available and it definitely probably won’t be Sunday, but we’ll see if we can maybe make something happen later on in the league year or something. That’ll be tough, but we’ll try.”

Regarding the cancellation of the UW game, Few said “that news was disappointing, to say the least.”

Standiford also indicated the Bulldogs would try to target open dates during the West Coast Conference schedule when looking to schedule another nonconference opponent.

“We’re getting ready to go into finals, so it would limit some of what we could do this coming week,” he said, “but I would say we’d be looking at our bye dates maybe as we move into the January, February range is probably the most likely opportunities that we’ll have.”

UW (4-5) hasn’t played since Nov. 27 against Winthrop after the Los Angeles Times reported seven players entered COVID-19 protocol last week. That forced the Huskies to postpone a Pac-12 opener at No. 11 Arizona and forfeit Sunday’s Pac-12 home opener against No. 4 UCLA.

Pac-12 procedures prompted UW to forfeit the UCLA game, but Standiford said a forfeiture was never on the table for Sunday’s game in Spokane after COVID-19 also prevented the teams from playing last year’s game.

“We talked about it in the same context as last year,” Standiford said. “COVID prevented it from happening last year, we just moved it forward a year. That’s what we expect to do again.”

During his weekly appearance on KJR radio in Seattle, UW coach Mike Hopkins said Tuesday the Huskies still hadn’t returned to practice since players entered a 10-day quarantine period. UW became the first Division I team this season to forfeit a game as a result of COVID-19, the Seattle Times reported.

Gonzaga has avoided COVID-19 absences this season, but in some ways the Bulldogs can relate to the obstacles UW has faced after nine GU players contracted the virus last year, according to Few. In total, Gonzaga missed eight games in 2020-21 because of COVID-19-related issues.

“The rules were vastly different last year,” Few said. “If I had it in this room, you guys would all have to quarantine for 14 days. That’s not what it is now, so it’s a totally, totally different situation. I don’t know, you’d have to ask (the Huskies) what they’ve been doing.”

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