Tennessee is hoping to have two of their top wing players back for this Tuesday’s penultimate regular season game against Arkansas in Knoxville.
During an availability with the media on Monday afternoon, head coach Rick Barnes said that the team will make a decision on both Tyreke Key and Julian Phillips before the game.
“I think they’ll be game-time decisions,” Barnes said.
Tyreke Key was a surprising scratch during Saturday’s game against South Carolina. Just a handful of minutes before tip-off, word came down that Key would be missing the game due to an ankle injury. Barnes provided a little more context on the injury Monday.
“You know what, he’s had some issues from the past,” Barnes said. “Tyreke is a very tough-minded person. He’s a guy that if he’s hurt, he pretty much keeps it to himself. And he would tell you he has no idea what made it swell up on him the way it did when he walked in here on Saturday. But he is doing everything. And obviously, Chad (Newman) and Garrett (Medenwald) are doing everything they can from their part.”
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Key is averaging 8.1 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.4 assists in the 27 games that he has played during the 2022-2023 basketball season. The 6-foot-2 senior from Celina, TN has three double-digit scoring games in SEC play this season, dropping 10 points on the road at LSU, 14 points in a buzzer-beating loss at Vanderbilt, and 23 in a buzzer-beating loss to Missouri at home just a few days later.
Julian Phillips, on the other hand, is also working his way back from injury. Phillips suffered a hip flexor injury during the first half of the Vols’ game against Missouri on Feb. 11 in Knoxville. The talented freshman has missed the last four games for Tennessee because of that injury.
Phillips, a 6-foot-8 freshman from Blythewood, South Carolina, is averaging 9.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 1.6 assists per game in 25 games played this season.
The good news on the injury front, though, is that Tennessee veteran guard/forward Josiah-Jordan James made his return to the court on Saturday night against the Gamecocks. James also missed four games due to injury after he sprained his ankle against Vanderbilt in an early February game in the mid-state. James returned on Saturday night and finished the game as Tennessee’s leading scorer with 18 points.
While James has had a little bit of an up-and-down season at times, largely due to the injuries that he has battled, Tennessee’s reliance on Josiah-Jordan James was easy to see in his absence. James has such a big impact on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball that it was critical to get him back on the court as soon as possible.
Tennessee will reevaluate Julian Phillips and Tyreke Key before Tuesday night’s game against Arkansas in Knoxville. That game will tip-off at 9:00 p.m. ET from Thompson-Boling Arena. ESPN2 will have the broadcast.