- The Washington Times - Monday, December 27, 2021

Maryland has found an opponent to fill a COVID-19 cancellation in its men’s basketball schedule this week as both players and fans have to adjust again to another season marred by changes and disruptions.

“This is something we were hoping to avoid this season, having gone through what we went through last year. But you also know that a lot of it is out of your control,” Terrapins interim coach Danny Manning told reporters.

The Terrapins will host Lehigh on Tuesday, filling a void left when that date’s originally-scheduled game against Loyola University Maryland was canceled due to coronavirus protocols within Loyola’s program.

“It’s been a challenge, without question, when you see games are getting canceled,” Manning said of virus-related cancellations and postponements. “Games are getting canceled like an hour or less before the tip.” 

“For us, or anybody, you feel fortunate if you have the opportunity to play, and that’s our mindset.”

Manning said the timing worked out for Maryland (6-4, 0-1 Big Ten) because the game plan for Loyola hadn’t been implemented yet by his staff when the cancellation was announced last Friday.

“We’re fortunate in the sense that our guys didn’t have to learn, unlearn, to learn the new opponent,” Manning said.

The Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East each announced Monday they were scrapping three games scheduled to take place over the next several days.

That included No. 2 Duke’s game Wednesday night at Clemson. Other ACC matchups that won’t take place as scheduled Wednesday include Florida State at Boston College and Virginia Tech at North Carolina. The Georgia Tech-Syracuse game scheduled for Wednesday was postponed earlier.

The Big East cited COVID-19 issues within the Georgetown and St. John’s programs in canceling their game scheduled for Saturday. Marquette’s game at St. John’s on Wednesday and Xavier’s Jan. 4 game at Georgetown also have been called off.

Tuesday will be the Terrapins’ first game since a 70-68 win over then-No. 20 Florida on Dec. 12 in the Basketball Hall of Fame Invitational in Brooklyn, New York.

Manning noted that was an inordinate amount of time for his team to go without game action, even with a holiday break in between.

“Of all the teams I’ve been involved with, this is probably the longest break I’ve experienced with a basketball team,” Manning said. “And so, for us, you want to knock the rust off getting up and down the court, and you get a chance to do that in a game environment.”

Fans headed to Xfinity Center for both the Lehigh game and Thursday’s scheduled game against Brown will notice changes to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The most notable: No concessions. Food and drinks will not be sold for those two games, nor will fans have access to the arena’s Courtside Club premium seating lounge.

Additionally, Maryland’s athletic department announced it would increase enforcement of an already-existing mask mandate for fans and give attendees the opportunity to spread out to less-crowded sections by switching their seats. 

Just as fans will have to adjust to changes in their arena experience, so too have Maryland’s players and coaches.

“We don’t want to wear masks out on the court when we’re coaching … but it’s what we have to do in order to be able to do what we love to do. And that’s just kind of the message,” Manning said. “We tell our guys all the time, we have to be flexible, we have to be understanding, and we have to be able to pivot very quickly from one direction to another based on the situation. And right now, with COVID, there’s going to be a lot of pivot.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• George Gerbo can be reached at ggerbo@washingtontimes.com.

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