Testing questions frustrate Spiders
False positive COVID tests may have led to layoff, missed games
Perturbed and without two games he believes should not necessarily have been scratched, University of Richmond basketball coach Chris Mooney doesn’t sound confident in the COVID-19 protocols applied to the No. 19 Spiders.
UR missed its Dec. 2 date at the College of Charleston, and a Dec. 5 home game against Furman, as well as nearly a week of practice time, because of COVID testing results and contact tracing in the Spiders’ program, according to the school. Mooney expressed concern about the response that he believes may have been based on false positives, and must wonder if this could again disrupt his unbeaten team.
He was informed after the Spiders’ return from their Nov. 29 win at Kentucky that three program members— no players — tested positive. Mooney said those three
individuals tested negative multiple times in Kentucky, where UR played a pair of games during a three-day stretch, and also tested negative multiple times in days subsequent to their positives.
That suggests to Mooney that testing glitches may have led to the positives, and to the Spiders’ shutdown.
“I don’t know if it’s officially ruled a false positive, or not ruled a false positive, but that’s difficult to wrap your head around, and unfortunate,” said Mooney, who’s in his 16th year at UR. “That part is really frustrating and hard to just dismiss because we do feel like we are doing so many things right and trying to give ourselves the best chance to play.”
Five players were affected because of contact tracing, and isolated with their meals delivered to them for several days, during which Richmond paused all basketball activity.
In a Wednesday statement to The Times-Dispatch, John Hardt, UR’s vice president and director of athletics, wrote:
“At times, it seems there are ever-evolving, changing standards and protocols surrounding COVID-19, and the nature of this dynamic can certainly be both challenging and frustrating. With that said, we support the campus leadership in following the CDC’s and the Virginia Department of Health’s directives and recommendations.
“We take our responsibility in addressing this set of issues very seriously and place our highest priority on the health, safety and well-being of our players, coaches and staff members.”
Without their usual preparation, the Spiders played Wofford Monday afternoon, and won 77-72 at the Robins Center, rallying in the final minute to overcome an opponent picked to finish fifth in the Southern Conference. Wednesday against visiting Northern Iowa (1-4), UR overcame a 10-point deficit in the first half to win by 10 (78-68) at home.
Speaking of returning from the layoff, Mooney said, “It was challenging and frustrating because it wasn’t a player, and then we find out they weren’t positive tests, so to lose not only the two games that we did but to lose time in the gym altogether, that’s a challenge.
“You have to meet the challenge. That’s the way it goes, and you have to meet the challenge.”
Richmond (4-0) has missed three games due to COVID, the first being the season opener against Detroit Mercy, which had a positive test in its program. Additionally, Mooney said the Spiders were exploring a game at Big East member Connecticut on Monday, and that didn’t happen because of COVID issues at UConn. The Wofford game was arranged two days before it was played.
“We thought we knew about it before the season. We were thinking ‘This is going to be crazy,’” said Richmond senior guard Jacob Gilyard. “It’s way different. At any moment, at any moment, like we could test tomorrow and something, God forbid, bad happens, we could be stuck for another week off.”
The Spiders, the A-10 favorites with four senior starters back from a 24-7 team, are aiming for their first NCAA tournament bid since 2011. They appeared in position to qualify for the 2020 tourney, which was canceled.
UR visits No. 11 West Virginia (4-1) Sunday afternoon (1 p.m., ESPN). The Mountaineers were scheduled to play Robert Morris Wednesday and that game was called off due to COVID issues in the RMU program. Each of the Spiders’ two opponents after that, Duquesne and Vanderbilt, has suspended operations because of COVID testing results, raising questions about whether those games will be played.
The word sophomore forward Tyler Burton used to describe the situation: “chaotic … Coach Mooney tells us every day to be patient, don’t get too emotional about things because that’s when things can kind of go bad.”
Mooney said he appreciates that “there are a lot worse things going on” relative to the global pandemic. But he added that “for a basketball team, it’s frustrating. We’re built on our routines, trying to have as perfect routines as we can. For us not to be able to work out, practice, we missed two games, and very frustrating.”
Mooney hopes the Spiders will now be able to rejoin their routine, two or three practices and a shoot-around leading into a game. “We just have to play, play, play and play so that we’re ready and prepared for the opponent’s best shot,” he said.
Richmond is attempting to reschedule games it missed, or find replacement opponents. It appears likely more of that will be required, based on the dozens of Division I teams that have missed games, or are missing games, because of COVID.
“Just got to find a way to make it to your advantage,” Gilyard said.