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Where Tennessee Basketball Turns With Zakai Zeigler Out

Tyreke Key
Tennessee G Tyreke Key. Photo via Tennessee Athletics.

Tennessee basketball was handed another bit of poor injury news Wednesday when the program announced Zakai Zeigler will miss the remainder of the season with a torn left ACL.

Zeigler went down just 2:54 into Tennessee’s win over Arkansas, holding his left knee before not returning to the game.

“I went in at halftime after I got done taking to the team,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said Tuesday. “He is such an unbelievable, wonderful person. He had been crying as you would imagine. He was hurt. It is tough.”

So where does Tennessee turn without its sophomore point guard the rest of the season? Super senior Tyreke Key’s expected return against Auburn is a help. Key has spent more time at point guard this season than any other player.

Barnes said Key’s return is important but that they would handle point guard duties by committee with no other true point guard on the roster.

“Obviously, we won’t rely on one person to do it as much, which is fine,” Barnes said. “We will get Tyreke (Key) back. We need him to get back. We know what he is capable of. We will do it I guess by committee if that is how you look at it but we have always kind of done that the last couple years.”

Against Arkansas, it was Santiago Vescovi who shouldered most the weight of running the point guard spot. The senior shooting guard played extended minutes at point guard his first two seasons at Tennessee. Vescovi dished out five assists to go along with three turnovers against the Razorbacks.

More From RTI: Three Quick Takeaways From Tennessee’s Win Over Arkansas
Sophomore guard Jahmai Mashack spent time at point guard against Arkansas after not playing it any previously in his career. Against the Razorbacks, Mashack dished out five assists with only one turnover.

“They were working him pretty much all night long. They were really trying to take away his left hand and putting pressure on him,” Barnes said of Vescovi. “But you know, I thought he got himself in a little bit of trouble a few times. But I thought Jahmai Mashack handled the ball (well), Julian, Josiah, all those guys. We’ve talked about that, when those guys get the ball, let’s not put so much pressure on one guy to handle it, let’s bring it down the court and get started.”

While freshman B.J. Edwards didn’t play against Arkansas, Barnes has increased his role in recent weeks. Edwards has played in four games over the last three weeks including 10 minutes against South Carolina.

Barnes said not to rule him out the rest of the way after the victory over Arkansas.

“I’m not going to count out BJ Edwards either,” Barnes said. “He’s improved tremendously here in the last month. I’m sure we’ll need him going forward too.”

Tennessee returns to the court at Auburn Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is at 2 p.m. ET on ESPN.

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