Tennessee starting point guard Trae Golden suffered a broken nose in last Friday’s practice but will be ready to play against UNC Asheville tonight (TV: SportSouth, 7 p.m.).
UT (3-6) looks to break a four-game losing streak when it hosts the Bulldogs (6-4) at Thompson-Boling Arena.
Vols coach Cuonzo Martin announced Golden’s injury at his Monday press conference, and said the sophomore will likely undergo surgery on Dec. 30.
Golden, who is leading the team with 14.4 points and 5.8 assists per game, was struck by a loose elbow late in a physical practice.
“The first couple of days after it happened, it affected my breathing,’’ Golden said. “I was dizzy and nauseous and had a bad headache. But I’ve shot the ball since then, and I don’t think it will affect me. It’s just getting used to it.’’
Martin held Golden out of last Saturday’s practice and the nose wasn’t diagnosed as broken until Monday.
“I don’t think he’ll have to miss any playing time,’’ Martin said. “I think he has some toughness to him. The doctor said the percentages of getting your nose hit again are very slim.
“I’m OK with him playing 35 minutes (against UNC Asheville), as long as he’s playing hard.’’
Martin knows what Golden will be going through, having suffered a broken nose himself during his sophomore season at Purdue in a game against Indiana.
“I got a mask; I wore it in practice, but not the games,’’ Martin said. “I just played through it. It was painful, but I stayed in the game.
“I didn’t want to have surgery because I would have missed some games. It’s just a part of it.’’
Martin said to the best of his recollection, he was 15-of-18 shooting and scored 32 points in the game he broke his nose, though the Boilermakers lost to the Hoosiers.
Martin believes Golden will be able to play effectively, but he also said that freshmen Wes Washpun and Josh Richardson could play some minutes at the point guard position in relief if needed.
Golden doesn’t think he’ll need any special assistance.
“I’m not trying to beast it or anything, I just know you can play through a broken nose,’’ Golden said. “I know Coach Martin played with one; he told me about it and that made me definitely feel like I had to be ready to go. He pushes me in so many ways, in every aspect, and expects a lot out of me. I feel like he teaches me so much that I couldn’t learn from anyone else.’’
Mike Griffith covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/MikeGriffith32