Despite a broken nose, point guard Trae Golden will not get the night off when Tennessee hosts UNC Asheville Tuesday evening ... and he won't get a whole lot of sympathy from Vol head man Cuonzo Martin.
Martin suffered a broken nose as a sophomore at Purdue in 1992-93 but continued playing and wound up finishing off a spectacular performance against Indiana.
"Fifteen of 18 from the field ... 32 points ... you can look it up," Martin said at the conclusion of his Monday news conference.
Martin said he wore a protective mask in practice following his nose injury but did not wear it in games.
"I didn't bother getting it fixed. It didn't look that bad, so I just kept rolling," he recalled, grinning as he added: "Maybe it does look bad; I don't know."
Martin seemed even more relaxed and upbeat than usual Monday, despite a four-game losing streak that has dropped Tennessee's record to 3-6. He acknowledged that a broken nose is "painful" but expressed confidence that Golden has the toughness and competitiveness to play through the discomfort.
Team doctors say the chances of Golden getting hit in the nose again are "slim," Martin said, adding: "You have to go out and play. You can't worry about it. That's part of it."
Golden, a 6-foot-1, 196-pound sophomore, leads the SEC with 5.8 assists per game and is tied for the Vols' team lead with 14.4 points per game. He was injured during Friday's practice, when his nose apparently collided with the elbow of freshman Wes Washpun. Golden was held out of Saturday's workout but returned to the practice floor Sunday.
Coincidentally, Washpun stands to benefit from Golden's injury by perhaps getting some backup minutes Tuesday night. Washpun played in seven of Tennessee's first eight games but did not see action last Wednesday in a Game 9 loss at College of Charleston.
Martin said Washpun will play versus UNC Asheville "if he continues to work hard. He's done a really good job the last two practices of playing hard. I think that's the key for him."
Averaging 13.9 minutes per game, Washpun has 11 assists and 5 turnovers to date. At 6-feet-1 and a mere 165 pounds, however, he has struggled against some of the bigger, stronger point guards he has faced.
"He has a bright future," Martin said, "but the strength and pace at this level are different. His on-ball defense is good but the strength part of it — penetrating and getting in the lane — he's still getting better with."
Fellow freshman Josh Richardson, a 6-foot-6, 186-pounder, has been working at the point "a lot" in practice lately, Martin said, but is unlikely to play there Tuesday night.
"I like Josh at the point," the coach noted. "But I don't want to bog him down with that — being the point, being on the wing, being the defensive stopper, slashing to the basket. You want to try to simplify things for him. Even though he has the capacity to do those things, he's still young, so I'd rather not have him bringing the ball up."
Preliminary plans call for Golden to have surgery on his broken nose Dec. 30, between home games against The Citadel (Dec. 29) and Chattanooga (Jan. 2).