Tennessee basketball will have three key pieces active and in its lineup for Tuesday night’s matchup against George Mason. Guard Freddie Dilione, wing Dalton Knecht and power forward Tobe Awaka are all available against the Patriots according to a Tennessee spokesperson.
Knecht is the biggest news as the Vols’ leading scorer suffered an ankle injury in last week’s loss at North Carolina. The left ankle injury looked nasty at the time and sidelined for the game’s remaining minutes. However, Knecht was active in the Vols’ Monday practice open to the media and is available against George Mason.
The Northern Colorado transfer has been the Vols’ best offensive player to this point in the season, averaging 20.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and two assists per game. Knecht totaled 15+ points in six games this season and 20+ points twice this season.
Awaka’s return to the lineup is the least surprising of the three. The sophomore power forward suffered an ankle injury in Tennessee’s Maui Invitational opener against Syracuse which knocked him out for that game. He returned to play limited minutes the next two days before missing last week’s game at North Carolina.
“He was full go yesterday,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said of Awaka’s status on Monday. “And if things stay like it is, he’ll cleared and he had a good day yesterday and we expect him to do it today.”
The backup big man is averaging 3.2 points and 2.8 rebounds so far this season though those numbers are skewed by him playing just 20 total minutes in three games at the Maui Invitational.
Dilione’s absence was the longest of the three as the redshirt freshman combo guard hasn’t played since suffering a partial tear in his plantar fascia he suffered in a Nov. 14 win over Wofford. Dilione will be on a minutes restriction against George Mason.
“He’s starting to work his way back in,” Barnes said of Dilione Monday. “He hasn’t been full going practice yet. But I think we’ll be able to use them some tomorrow if it goes well today in practice.”
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.