On Tuesday, the Tigers earned an opening-night win over Tennessee-Martin but suffered a loss along the way. Senior guard J.T. Tiller left the game in the second half with a bone bruise to his left foot that will keep him out, at the very least, through Sunday’s game against Texas-Pan American in the opening round of the South Padre Island Invitational.
“We’re certainly not happy that he got hurt, but at the same time, we’re relieved that he’ll have an opportunity to cast it up, heal it up and get ready to play,” coach Mike Anderson said. “The healing process is just a matter of time. There will be a little pain, but the guy played with a broken wrist all year long (last season). So that tells you his makeup.”
Tiller is the team’s top returning scorer from the 2008-2009 season, and was called the “face of the team” by Anderson in the preseason. Replacing his production and leadership will not be an easy task. But the Tigers have other players ready to step up and fill the void.
“He’s the key to our team,” senior guard Zaire Taylor said. “So with him out of the picture, everybody’s got to step up – me, Marcus (Denmon), Laurence (Bowers) and the rest of the guys. Leadership is definitely going to have to improve. Especially from myself, Keith (Ramsey), Justin (Safford) and some of the guys who have been around for a little while.”
On top of Tiller’s injury, sophomore guard Kim English hit his head in the opener, and is dealing with shooting problems. But Anderson sees no reason to worry.
“He got popped pretty good, and I thought he was different even at halftime,” Anderson said. “But we’ll get him to work out at practice here. He’s important in what we’re doing. He’s pressing, that’s all. Sometimes you want to do something so bad, you work so hard and you want to showcase that. But once things start happening, you better really watch out then.”