Tennessee basketball is down two rotational players for tonight’s top 20 matchup against North Carolina. Sophomore forward Tobe Awaka and redshirt freshman guard Freddie Dilione are both unavailable against the Tar Heels, a UT spokesperson confirmed Wednesday evening.
Awaka suffered an ankle injury in the opening minutes of the Vols’ Maui Invitational opening win over Syracuse. The sophomore power forward played 12 minutes against Purdue the next day and seven minutes against Kansas the ensuing day but was clearly limited by the ankle injury.
In three games before suffering the injury this season, Awaka averaged five points and five rebounds per game as Jonas Aidoo’s back up. With Awaka sidelined, the junior Aidoo will shoulder more of the load against Armando Bacot and the North Carolina front court.
Aidoo is a Durham native who grew up a North Carolina fan and went un-recruited by the Tar Heels. The Vols will also turn to freshman center JP Estrella to provide interior minutes off the bench.
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Dilione is missing his fourth straight game after partially tearing his plantar fascia in the opening minutes of Tennessee’s win over Wofford. The redshirt freshman combo guard missed all four games at the Maui Invitational and is “day-to-day” according to Rick Barnes.
“I think it’s day to day,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said on Monday. “We gotta get him healthy. That’s, that’s a tough one. I mean, if you don’t get it fixed, it’ll linger all year. And we don’t want that. We’re still in November and we got a long way to go. So we gotta make sure we get him totally healthy and before we can get him back out there.”
The 6-foot-5 guard is in the midst of a battle for playing time in a crowded Tennessee backcourt. Tennessee returned guards Zakai Zeigler, Santiago Vescovi and Jahmai Mashack from last season’s team in addition to adding USC Upstate transfer Jordan Gainey.
In two games before suffering the injury, Dilione totaled seven points, three rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes of action.
Tipoff between Tennessee and North Carolina is at 7:15 p.m. ET at the Dean E. Smith Center. Karl Ravech, Jimmy Dykes and Myron Medcalf are on the call for ESPN.