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Gonzaga Basketball

Following three-game pause, Gonzaga optimistic about return to court Saturday against Pepperdine

Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) raises his arms to the crowd after the Zags defeated North Alabama 93-63 during a NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021, in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

In COVID times, there’s no such thing as absolute certainty, but all signs point toward No. 4 Gonzaga ending a three-game pause and hosting Pepperdine on Saturday for its West Coast Conference opener.

The Bulldogs were unable to avoid the recent surge of omicron cases, postponing games at San Diego, at Loyola Marymount and home against San Francisco. According to athletic director Chris Standiford, Gonzaga (11-2) is on track to resume the 2021-22 season against Pepperdine (6-9) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.

“We expect to (play) at this time,” Standiford told The Spokesman-Review over the phone Wednesday afternoon. “We’ll be fine. We still have to get confirmation from our opponent that they get through their final protocols, but all indications as of 4 o’clock today are that we’re good.”

Pepperdine’s program has also been on a COVID pause, postponing a WCC opener Saturday at Pacific. The Waves were scheduled to play San Diego on Thursday, but both teams agreed to move the game back four days to Monday due to health and safety protocols.

The Zags haven’t played a game since the Dec. 28 win over North Alabama and have played just three games since Dec. 9. In total, they’ve had four games canceled or postponed due to health and safety protocols, postponing three WCC games and canceling a Dec. 12 rivalry game against Washington due to a COVID outbreak within the Huskies’ program.

One of Gonzaga’s nonconference opponents, UCLA, is returning from an extended COVID pause to play Long Beach State in front of a Pauley Pavilion crowd that will be limited to family of team members due to safety precautions.

Although Gonzaga continues to have discussions with regional health officials, Standiford said the school hasn’t been advised to take similar measures and “our hope is to continue to conduct our games with fans.”

Due to HIPAA regulations, Standiford could not say how many Gonzaga players have been in health and safety protocols since the Bulldogs announced last week they were postponing their WCC openers.