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Vols Could Be Down Starter vs. Mississippi State

(Photo via Tennessee Athletics)

Former five-star Josiah-Jordan James has started every game of his freshman season with the Vols so far. But that streak could be in jeopardy later today.

According to Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports, Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes has said that James is “questionable” for the Vols’ match-up with Mississippi State at 2:00 PM Eastern down in Starkville today.

Earlier this week, Barnes said that James had “tweaked” the injury that kept him sidelined over the summer and kept him out of most of UT’s preseason workouts in October.

“Josiah is still learning, and he struggled the other night,” Barnes said on Thursday before practice. “He was hurt a little bit, but I think he showed some toughness by trying to fight through it.

“He tweaked (the injury) a little bit. He actually did it at Kansas a little bit. But all teams have that this time of year.”

The numbers for James’ game reflect what Barnes claims. Prior to Tennessee’s game against Kansas last Saturday, James had started to look more comfortable on offense and had scored in double figures in eight of his previous 11 games, averaging 10.0 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 3.2 assists in that stretch while shooting 39.1 percent from three.

Against Kansas, though, James put forth his worst outing of his young Tennessee career.

The freshman scored zero points and missed all six of his field goal attempts, turning the ball over six times in the process. He did grab seven rebounds and dished four assists in his 26 minutes, but he was clearly not himself. Against Texas A&M on Tuesday night in Knoxville, James didn’t find a lot more success, scoring seven points on 3-of-5 shooting and totaling three rebounds, two assists, and two steals while turning the ball over four times. James only played 23 minutes and was in foul trouble, eventually fouling out.

James has been a fixture in the Vols’ starting lineup since the beginning of the season, and if he can’t go, it’ll be interesting to see who Rick Barnes puts in his place. Lately, junior wing Jalen Johnson has seen an uptick in his minutes, as he’s averaged 21.3 minutes a game over his last seven contests. In that stretch, Johnson is averaging 4.4 points and 2.3 rebounds while making 36.8 percent of his threes.

Earlier this year, freshman Davonte Gaines earned a spot start against Wisconsin after redshirt senior Lamonte Turner elected to have season-ending surgery. But freshman Santiago Vescovi joined the team for the Vols’ next contest against LSU, and he’s started all eight games he’s played as a Vol.

Tennessee (12-8, 4-3 SEC) and Mississippi State (13-7, 4-3) are slated to tip-off at 2:00 PM Eastern on ESPNU.

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