How will Rick Barnes handle Kennedy Chandler's injury for Tennessee basketball?

·3 min read

TAMPA, Fla. — Rick Barnes made a deal with Kennedy Chandler.

The Tennessee basketball coach told Chandler if he saw him limping, he would take him out of UT's SEC Tournament game against Mississippi State on Friday.

“It was up to him,” Barnes said. “I said to him, ‘How do you feel?' He said, ‘I’m fine.’ We have to trust him on that.”

Barnes deferred to his freshman guard and UT’s training staff during No. 2 seed Tennessee’s 72-59 win against No. 10-seeded Mississippi State at Amalie Arena.

Chandler left the game three times due to an apparent ankle injury that he initially suffered early in the first half. He left again in the first half and early in the second half, the final absence being the longest.

The Memphis native insisted he got kicked when he went down under the basket after Mississippi State’s first possession of the second half. Barnes thought Chandler was limping and the freshman said it wasn’t his ankle bothering him.

“As a coach, you’re always concerned when you see a player come out limping. Because guys will play,” Barnes said.

Chandler had 11 points and six assists in 27 minutes against the Bulldogs. Tennessee will face the winner of No. 3 seed Kentucky and No. 11-seeded Vanderbilt on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, ESPN).

“This time of year, all you can do is try to rest them,” Barnes said. “We’ve got the best medical staff, the best trainer in the business, performance coach. They’ll work all night with those guys and make sure anything and everything that can be done, they’ll do it.”

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Chandler was helped up by his teammates at the 16:29 mark of the first half after falling to the court and grabbing his right ankle. Chandler was evaluated on the bench and then went down the tunnel with UT training staff.

The SEC All-Freshman team selection checked back in with 15:15 remaining in the first half. He left again later in the first half.

Chandler tumbled under the MSU hoop at the start of the second half and did not return until the 8:33 mark. Chandler was again evaluated by UT's trainers in the tunnel and was riding a stationary bike.

Barnes said he was concerned entering Friday that Tennessee hadn’t played since its 78-74 win against Arkansas on March 5. The Vols took time off early in the week to let players get healthy, but Barnes expressed it can be hard this time of year for players if they don’t keep getting reps.

Josiah-Jordan James carried Tennessee in the second half, hitting four 3-pointers in a 3:22 span and scoring 14 second-half points. Zakai Zeigler had 11 points and eight assists.

“Our mentality throughout the year is always next man up,” James said. “You never know what’s going to happen. We’re thankful that Kennedy is doing well, that’s he’s OK. We have faith in whoever was going to come in.”

Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at michael.wilson@knoxnews.com and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: How will Rick Barnes handle Kennedy Chandler's injury for Tennessee basketball?