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Rick Barnes updates the injury status of Yves Pons

NCAA Basketball: Tennessee at Kentucky Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Tennessee basketball had a surprise inactive on Wednesday night against Georgia. Yves Pons, Tennessee’s most important defender, wasn’t able to go due to a knee injury. Pons was ruled out just before tip-off, and Josiah James started in his place.

The Vols went on to win against Georgia, building a lead and then letting the Bulldogs creep back into the picture. Georgia just wasn’t ever able to get quite close enough, thanks to some hot shooting early on and an incredible performance from Jaden Springer.

Tennessee will head to LSU on Saturday for a big road matchup — now the question becomes whether or not Pons will be available.

“I do think he will be back,” Rick Barnes said after the Georgia win. “He worked really hard in trying to play tonight. He is such a competitive player, and he has done everything he could. He obviously has not practiced (in a few days), but he wanted to see all day the last couple of days just to see if he could get enough confidence to play. The swelling is going down in the knee. But you know again tonight I would like to think if he was in the game, he would give us a little bit of that rim protection that we missed tonight and we needed to have.”

Pons is averaging nine points, five rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game as a senior, but his impact goes deeper than the numbers. He’s the eraser for this team, and not having him on the floor was a big issue late in the game against Georgia. Obviously, getting him back would be a big boost on the road against a solid LSU group.

“He was trying to play tonight, so another couple days off so he might be ready,” Barnes said. “I will be surprised if he doesn’t, but I don’t know. When we drove back over tonight he had not made that decision whether he would or he would not. He really tried to play, but he just could not get confident enough to be able to do it.”

Tennessee and LSU are set for a 2 p.m. ET tip-off in Baton Rouge on Saturday.