What Rick Barnes Said About Zakai Zeigler’s Knee Injury After Tennessee Defeated Arkansas

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Tennessee point guard Zakai Zeigler exited the Vols’ win over Arkansas with a left knee injury just 2:54 into the game. Zeigler didn’t return and Tennessee didn’t have any further update after the game, saying it would require a scan to learn more details.

From the moment the injury occurred, it was clearly very serious.

“I just know that they know (Zeigler) like I know him, that if he stayed down, he’s hurt,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said postgame. “I know that they know. They know that he pops right back up every single time when he goes down. I think they knew it was serious, I do.”

Zeigler was in serious pain and didn’t put any pressure on his left leg as trainer Chad Newman and strength coach Garrett Medenwald helped him off the court.

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

The sophomore point guard was already off to a quick start against the Razorbacks, scoring the game’s first points and 161st assist of the season.

“The tough thing (Tennessee SID) Tom (Satkowiak) told me tonight,” Barnes said. “He tied Kennedy (Chandler) last year for the same amount of assists that Kennedy had a year ago. It is just the way he has grown as a point guard and a leader.”

The Vols were also down guard Tyreke Key against Arkansas due to a right ankle injury. The Indiana State grad transfer has played more minutes at point guard than any other player besides Zeigler this season. Tennessee said they expect Key to return to the court on Saturday against Auburn.

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While Key will help the point guard situation, he is not a natural point guard. If Zeigler’s injury is as serious as it looked in live time, the Vols will rely on a number of players to pick up the slack.

“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, Santiago Vescovi and Jahmai Mashack both handled point guard opportunities and did it well. Vescovi dished out five assists to three turnovers in addition to his 14 points while Mashack — who hasn’t played any point guard at Tennessee — dished out five assists with just 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. “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.”

Freshman guard B.J. Edwards has seen an increased role in recent weeks and while he didn’t play against the Razorbacks, Barnes isn’t ruling him out as an option going forward.

“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 Saturday afternoon against Auburn. Tip-off from Neville Arena is at 2 p.m. ET.

Author: Ethan Moore