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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Just about an hour before tipoff in Nashville, the Memphis Tigers versus the Tennessee Volunteers game was canceled due to COVD-19 within the Tigers’ program.

It was billed as the biggest basketball game in the state of Tennessee on Saturday. Coach Penny Hardaway said Tyler Harris and Landers Nolley II tested positive for the virus. Because of that, a number of unvaccinated players on the team are forced to sit out. If there were enough vaccinated players on the team, they reportedly could have played.

“There should be some compassion for the players,” Hardaway said. “Nobody tries to miss a game, especially a game of this importance to our state.”

The game cancellation was a big disappointment for many Tiger fans.

“You were either at the game or with family or friends looking forward to Memphis beating Tennessee, which I thought would have been the case,” Harold Byrd, Memphis Rebounders President, said. “So, unfortunately, we needed that game to improve our NCAA position, so it’s a lot of disappointment.”

During the preseason, Hardaway said his “whole entire team isn’t vaccinated, probably 90 percent.” This week, he admitted that he probably misspoke.

“Initially when I talked to the guys earlier, they were all talking about being vaccinated, and I never visited it again,” Hardaway said. “So I probably misspoke.”

Still, he said the game cancellation is a wakeup call for his team about the importance of being vaccinated.

“We had COVID situations last year, but never to the magnitude of this, before the biggest game of the season for us,” Hardaway said. “You can’t force anybody to do it. Just give them the pluses and minuses of having versus not having it.”

Because of COVID-19 protocols, the Tigers announced Tuesday night’s game against Alabama State University would also be cancelled.