No. 1 Gonzaga tries to navigate COVID-19, and No. 15 West Virginia

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Top-ranked Gonzaga has arrived at a confident conclusion after playing just two games.

“We feel we can score on anybody,” forward Drew Timme said. “We’ve got great coaching. If we execute our offense and move the ball and not get stymied, we feel we can score on every team.”

In addition to the frontcourt size of No. 15 West Virginia, their opponent Wednesday in a Jimmy V Classic game in Indianapolis, concerns surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic represent the latest obstacles to the Bulldogs’ boast.

Two players sat out Gonzaga’s 90-67 win against Auburn in the Rocket Mortgage Fort Myers Tipoff Saturday after entering the COVID-19 protocol. Bulldogs coach Mark Few confirmed postgame that one player had tested positive for coronavirus, while athletic director Mike Roth said the second player was in isolation after contact tracing.

As the team prepared to travel from Fort Myers, Fla., to Indianapolis on Monday, it remained unclear whether the players, or three non-playing members of Gonzaga’s traveling party who also were in quarantine, would remain in Florida or return to campus.

“You have to react and stay agile,” Few said. “We followed the COVID protocols of the tournament and the Florida health board down here. They’ve all been great. It’s been very professional. Our guys have been incredibly diligent about following all the rules.”

In essence, the Mountaineers issued an indirect challenge to the Bulldogs to be their opponent in the first game of the Jimmy V Classic.

Upon learning that Tennessee, Gonzaga’s originally scheduled foe, had to vacate its spot in the event due to program concerns over COVID-19, West Virginia coach Bob Huggins reached out to his connections at ESPN, which has television rights to the Classic.

“I thought, ‘What the heck, let’s call ESPN,'” Huggins said. “So, I called some guys that I’ve known for a long, long time and said, ‘Can you work this out and get us in the Jimmy V to play Gonzaga?'”

As Huggins tells it, one such acquaintance responded 15 minutes later.

The programs haven’t met since Gonzaga edged West Virginia 61-58 in the Sweet 16 of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, en route to a berth in the national championship game.

While the Bulldogs (2-0) have topped No. 6 Kansas and Auburn in the season’s first week, the Mountaineers (3-0) defeated South Dakota State, Virginia Commonwealth and Western Kentucky to win the Bad Boy Motors Crossover Classic in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Derek Culver scored 15 points Saturday to help West Virginia erase a 10-point second-half deficit in a 70-64 win against Western Kentucky. While Culver was named MVP of the tournament, Miles McBride left as the team’s leading scorer, averaging 16.3 points while dishing 10 assists in three games.

“I’m really just trying to let the game come to me and just hoping the shots come,” McBride said. “Coach tells me to shoot them, and I shoot with a lot of confidence. If the shot’s there, I’m going to take it.”

Corey Kispert added 25 points for Gonzaga in the Auburn game, including four 3-pointers.

The Bulldogs have scored 114 points in the paint in the first two games.

–Field Level Media

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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