Tennessee sophomore big man Tobe Awaka checked into the Vols’ Maui Invitational opener against Syracuse with 18:48 left in the first half. In less than a minute he suffered a right ankle injury before exiting the game with 17:36 left in the first half.
The Vols originally ruled him doubtful to return before later announcing that he was out and would not return. Awaka totaled one rebound and had his lone shot blocked while in the game.
Rick Barnes wasn’t asked about Awaka’s status postgame. We’ll have additional coverage when Tennessee updates his status.
The interior is one of the few places Tennessee is thin at. Barnes and his staff turned to freshman JP Estrella in the first half to spell Jonas Aidoo with Awaka sidelined. In his first big game minutes, Estrella performed well. The Maine native scored two points, grabbed three offensive rebounds and had an assist in nine minutes of action.
In the second half, Tennessee turned to an all guard and wing lineup that included Josiah-Jordan James playing the five-spot and either Dalton Knecht or Jahmai Mashack playing the four-spot when they needed to spell Aidoo.
The junior Aidoo played well against Syracuse scoring 14 points on six-of-13 shooting while adding 11 rebounds and a block in 17 minutes.
In three games before the Maui Invitational, Awaka averaged five points and five rebounds in 12 minutes per game. Freshman power forward Cade Phillips is another option for Tennessee’s front court if Awaka can’t go the rest of the tournament.
Tennessee returns to the court at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday night. They’ll face the winner of No. 11 Gonzaga’s matchup with No. 2 Purdue.