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Santiago Vescovi: The Flu ‘A Nightmare’ But Hopeful He Can Play Against Purdue Sunday

Photo By Andrew Ferguson/Tennessee Athletics

DETROIT, Mich. — Fever, chills, body aches. The flu has been “just like a nightmare” for Tennessee super senior shooting guard Santiago Vescovi.

Vescovi missed his first game of the season and just his fourth game in his five-year career with the illness as Tennessee basketball outlasted Creighton 82-75 to advance to the Elite Eight on Friday.

“The flu’s been kicking my tail,” Vescovi said on Saturday, the first time he’s met with the media this week in Detroit.

The 6-foot-3 shooting guard first started feeling poorly on Tuesday night. He felt worse during team lift on Wednesday morning and that’s when he went to team trainer Chad Newman. Vescovi tested positive for the flu but still traveled with the team to Detroit later that afternoon, hoping to be available by the late Friday night tip off.

“He was seeing everything we were doing by Zoom in his room, knowing if there’s any way possible — Santi, as you guys know, has a great basketball IQ, and he knows what we’re doing as well as I know what we’re trying to get done,” Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes said.

“I mean, you get to a point where even if I wanted to play, I wouldn’t have helped the team,” Vescovi said. “But on top of that, yesterday at least was more of, I really like couldn’t do anything, like physically. I was just, I didn’t have like energy, I was tired, my body was hurting. I had fever and all that stuff.”

The only joy Vescovi found Friday was how Tennessee played in his absence. Fellow super senior Josiah-Jordan James said it was a point of emphasis to make sure Vescovi’s career didn’t end with him in the locker room.

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Tennessee made sure it wasn’t. Players up-and-down Tennessee’s bench stepped up including Jahmai Mashack, Jordan Gainey and Cam Carr— all who saw increased minutes with Vescovi unable to play.

“We’ve trust(ed) in every single guy on this team that are gonna step on the court and the guys played their tails off yesterday, you could tell energy wise everybody was locked in,” Vescovi said. “Everybody that came in did their own part and they got the dub. So I was really proud of all of them and it really got me excited.”

Now the attention turns to whether Vescovi can play in Tennessee’s Sunday afternoon Elite Eight matchup against Purdue. Sitting in the locker room and answering questions from the media indicates that his fever has, at least temporarily broke, and is a good sign.

But Vescovi clearly isn’t 100% and while he’s hopeful that he can play on Sunday, it’s no certainty.

“I’m going to try to play,” Vescovi said. “I want to play, I want to be with the guys … and like I said, it was frustrating watching them on the TV. I missed being out there with them but we’ll see how I feel. Hopefully I can be able to play.

Tipoff between Tennessee and Purdue is at 2:20 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. CBS is broadcasting the game.

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