COVID-19 almost puts kibosh on men’s game

Stanford head coach Jerod Haase, third from the right, in face mask, gathers his team during a delay before Thursday’s game against Washington State in Pullman.

These days, sports postponements or cancellations are so common, almost every high school or college team is likely to experience one or the other if it hasn’t already.

But what happens when a game is mere seconds away from starting and players are pulled off the court?

The Washington State men’s basketball team got first-hand experience with that bizarre phenomenon Thursday before a Pac-12 contest against visiting Stanford at Beasley Coliseum.

Fans were seated, starters were introduced, players were on the court for the tipoff and then it all came to an abrupt halt to the confusion of players, fans, media and personnel.

The reason?

A Stanford physician reportedly was not satisfied with WSU’s COVID-19 test results, so a new round of testing was summoned at the last possible moment.

The game eventually started about 70 minutes later with the Cardinal topping the Cougs 62-57.

But the strange circumstances left some questions from WSU coach Kyle Smith, and likely others, about the process.

“I think it was (because) there were some guys in protocol, and personally, I just can’t keep up with all the rules, but I thought if guys were vaccinated, there was no such thing as contact tracing,” Smith said after the game. “So there was contact tracing with some guys. (Stanford) just went through a pause, I think 12 of their guys had it.

“I don’t know enough, but I think it was their doctor that wasn’t comfortable.”

Let’s take a look at what reportedly happened the whole way through. Times are approximate.

1:55 p.m. — Both teams are on the court, starters introduced, game about to tip.

2 p.m. — Both teams leave the court. The announcer declares a 10-minute delay right as the game was set to start.

2:05 p.m. — Teams start warming up again.

2:15 p.m. — Both teams leave the court. Announcer says there will be an update in the next five mins.

2:25 p.m. — Dance cam is shown, music blares, Cougar band plays, Stanford shoots on the court, but Cougs no longer are present.

2:35 p.m. — Stanford leaves the court.

2:45 p.m. — WSU’s radio broadcast reports Stanford wasn’t satisfied with COVID-19 test results. Reportedly, the Cougars tested again but the results failed, so they test for a third time.

3 p.m. — Teams begin a 10-minute warmup.

3:10 p.m. — Game tips off 70 minutes late.

Huzzah.

“It’s a little nutty, man, about to jump the ball up and all of a sudden we’re pulling guys off the floor,” Smith said. “We’ve got to come up with a better solution than that, because that was the whole purpose of getting guys vaccinated, I thought.”

He’s got a point.

Safety, of course, remains the top priority. But taking players off the court at the last second means either something went wrong somewhere in the process or the interpretation of the rules were misunderstood by one party or another.

Either way, it’s something the Cougs hope to not encounter again this season.

WSU forward DJ Rodman, a key contributor off the bench, and forward Matt DeWolf remain in virus protocols, Smith said.

“I’m pretty sure we have to get our guys vaccinated so we won’t have to sit and miss time and miss games,” Smith said. “Now we’re getting vaccinated guys with no symptoms that we’re pulling off the court because the opposing people thought it was appropriate, they were scared to play.

“I don’t know. I’m confused.”

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.

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