Eastern Michigan hindered by contact tracing in shorthanded loss to Michigan State

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News

East Lansing – It was the game that almost didn’t happen.

Michigan State and Eastern Michigan opened the college basketball season on Wednesday night at the Breslin Center, but because of COVID-19, it almost didn’t take place.

The Eagles played with only eight players in the game that No. 13 Michigan State won, 83-67, after a manager tested positive for the coronavirus this week and six players were held out because of the close contact they had with the manager. Assistant coach Kevin Mondro was also forced to remain back in Ypsilanti.

“They were out for COVID reasons, contact tracing,” Eastern Michigan coach Rob Murphy said after the game. “None of the guys tested positive, but we had a manager test positive so after doing the research on contact tracing — where guys were and who the manager worked with — we ended up having six guys out. Our guys tested again last night and everybody was negative, but unfortunately because of the CDC rules and regulations and what we are following at Eastern Michigan, we were unable to bring those guys.

Michigan head coach Tom Izzo greets Eastern head coach Rob Murphy during EMU's season opener.

“We also missed out on Coach Kevin Mondro as well. It was his scout and we learned that he was out along with the six players so unfortunately for us we didn’t have three centers, a couple forwards. We needed those guys to help anchor our zone and rebound the basketball and finish inside.”

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo, who just returned to the office on Monday after testing positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 9, was grateful Murphy and Eastern Michigan decided to play.

“I want to take my hat off to Eastern Michigan and Coach Murphy,” Izzo said. “He could have canceled out of this game when he lost those big guys to COVID and he played it, and I'm greatly appreciative of that. … A lot of guys would have just maybe leaked out and not played the game. They could have canceled out yesterday or today, and so I take my hat off to him and the whole Eastern Michigan staff for what they did.”

Izzo, who observed practice over the weekend before getting back to work on Monday, said he felt “pretty good” but admitted to being more tired than normal. He spent more time sitting during the game than he typically does

“It was a little bit of a tough day for me,” Izzo said. “A little more fatigued than normal. … Again, I want to thank our medical people and our doctors and all the heroes, the health care workers around here, some people who took care of me, and I really greatly appreciate that. And I do want to thank again, Murph and his group, for playing the game when they didn't have to.

"All in all, it was a night of basketball and I think that's what we all needed.”


Twitter: @mattcharboneau