In the middle of the second half, Tennessee’s Tobe Awaka secured his third offensive rebound in less than three minutes. Kentucky’s Rob Dillingham fouled him while reaching for the ball and added an extra slap on the wrist after the whistle.


He Is Growing Up Right In Front Of Us': Awaka Shines For Tennessee Against Georgia | Rocky Top Insider

As Awaka confronted Dillingham, Kentucky forward Aaron Bradshaw pushed him from behind. Reacting swiftly, the Vols’ sophomore power forward retaliated by shoving Bradshaw with a rare fiery intensity in his eyes.

Jahmai Mashack swiftly joined Awaka, vocalizing his disagreement with Kentucky’s players, while Zakai Zeigler laughed and applauded the sequence. As officials reviewed the chaos on the court, Awaka walked to the Tennessee bench, receiving high-fives from nearly every coach and player.

“We’ve kind of been challenging Tobe to be that enforcer that we know he can be,” said Tennessee senior Josiah-Jordan James. “And that play really set it off for us. Just knowing that he has our back, and I feel like if Tobe has your back, you can win World War III with him on your side. So it was really great to see, and it shows that we’re not going to back down from anybody.”

Zeigler, having known Awaka since high school, shared a unique perspective on Awaka’s display of intensity. The junior point guard, who played on the same EYBL team with Awaka, admitted to intentionally provoking Awaka at times and couldn’t help but laugh while discussing the postgame sequence.

“Well, I mess with him a lot, so I see him actually get mad sometimes,” Zeigler said. “So that’s why I was in the back just, you know, hyping it up a little bit. Like maybe I shouldn’t have done that, but I see it a little bit and it was weird. It was actually really funny to me.”

Despite Awaka’s typically reserved demeanor off the court, the sequence highlighted the intensity described by Tennessee FCA Chaplain Chris Walker last fall. Walker noted that Awaka can switch on an intense and relentless mode instantly, showcasing an unexpected, animalistic side on the court.

Tennessee head coach Rick Barnes acknowledged Awaka’s streak of intensity, stating, “I mean, there’s no doubt that he’s got a streak in him. I mean, Tobe’s tough. But have I seen it? Yeah, I’ve seen him like that a few times.”

At the time of the incident, Tennessee was already leading by 10 points, and while it didn’t spark a significant run for the Vols, it elevated the team’s intensity on a night when it was already soaring.

“I told Tobe after it happened, I was like, ‘we’re not going to lose this game,'” emphasized James.

Although the incident didn’t trigger a massive scoring spree for Tennessee, it did ignite more impressive play from Awaka. In the next 3.5 minutes, he grabbed three additional rebounds and scored four points, breaking out of a cold streak and reigniting his fire on the court.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *