Tennessee is expected to get one starter back in the lineup against Alcorn State but one will be unavailable.
Senior forward Josiah-Jordan James is expected to return to the lineup barring any pregame setbacks after missing the last four games with a knee injury that plagued him in the preseason and early this year. Senior shooting guard Santiago Vescovi is out with a strained left shoulder, RTI learned Sunday afternoon.
“I would say day-to-day,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said of Vescovi’s injury postgame. We knew he wasn’t going to play today. Yesterday we knew we were going to limit Josiah to some minutes today, because he’s feeling better, obviously. Again, I think Santi would be day-to-day.”
The duo are Tennessee’s senior leaders and were both preseason All-SEC selections. As the month turns to December, the duo have played just three games together this season.
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James very well in limited action earlier this season, averaging 13.7 points and six rebounds in three games. The senior wing’s defense was elite as usual, averaging 1.7 steals and 0.7 blocks.
“I felt it during the Colorado game,” James said of when his knee started acting up again. “I was skeptical about playing in that one. The Florida Gulf Coast game, I was very skeptical about playing in that one. I just felt like we were (re)gressing and not getting better. I just took a step back and let Chad and G come up with a plan for me moving forward. It was early on in the season that I knew something wasn’t really right and it just kept seeming like it was getting worse and worse. I feel like we are moving in the right direction.”
The injury is an ongoing concern for James who was limited in the entire preseason with it. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said it was up to James to decide when he would return. James discussed the challenges of not forcing his return but wanting to make the most of his final season.
“It is really tough,” James said. “But I have faith in my teammates. I think we work as hard as any team in the country if not the hardest out of anybody. I know that everybody in the locker room is prepared to take the challenge on of whoever are playing. It is tough not being out there, not being available to be out there at my best.”
Vescovi’s gotten off to a slow shooting start this season, tallying just a 32% mark from three-point range. Rick Barnes has gone out of his way to praise Vescovi’s defense and the left-handed guard made big plays on both ends of the court on his way to earning Battle 4 Atlantis MVP honors.
The Vols won all three games at the Battle 4 Atlantis and enter the Alcorn State game riding a four-game winning streak.
Tip-off between Tennessee and Alcorn State is at 6 p.m. ET. The SEC Network+ is streaming the game.