Tennessee's matchup versus Division II Tusculum College appeared to be harmless; simply a quick breather before entering the always-treacherous journey of SEC play.
And while the score — a 98-51 Volunteer win — indicated just that, it was revealed Tuesday that the seemingly innocent contest was nearly a season-altering back breaker for Cuonzo Martin's Volunteers.
When asked before practice, UT junior forward Jarnell Stokes admitted he partially dislocated his right shoulder in the Vols' win over the Pioneers on Jan. 4.
However, Stokes was quick to note the injury is no longer an issue.
"I felt a pop," Stokes said. "One of my teammates ran into my shoulder, and I heard it pop.
"I took some medical procedures as far as helping that get better, and it's all of the sudden, I mean, it's better now. Nothing that requires surgery or anything."
Just three days after the injury, Stokes kicked off conference play in commanding fashion, pouring in his seventh double-double of the year (15 points, 15 rebounds) en route to a 68-50 road win over LSU.
While still "really" sore, the positive results gave Stokes confidence he could overcome the lingering injury in UT's next contest: a Jan. 11 showdown with Texas A&M.
That decision, the junior forward said, was unwise as he posted one of his poorest outings of the season against the Aggies.
"I played with it against LSU," Stokes said, "but then against Texas A&M, it sort of came back to haunt me.
"I thought I could just come out and do what I did against LSU again."
The junior forward, however, turned in quite the opposite.
After picking up two early fouls, Stokes played only 24 minutes, posting just six points and five rebounds. His no-show was a crucial ingredient in A&M's 57-56 comeback win as the Aggies consistently attacked the post in Stokes' absence.
"When I got those two fouls," Stokes said, "there was no more adrenaline.
"In the second half, I was basically dead. That's why I feel like in the second half of Texas A&M, I got one rebound, zero points, so that really hurts me."
But after Stokes' dominant performance at Kentucky this past Saturday, disaster has seemingly been avoided, and Martin is confident in his prized big man going forward.
"I think he's one of the best in the country regardless of what league (or) what level," Martin said at Tuesday's media luncheon. "It doesn't matter what the rankings are because when he's playing at that level, everything kind of falls in line.
"The way he rebounds the basketball and the way he's moving and scoring the ball like that, there's no doubt in my mind I would take him up against anybody."
This is the Vols' second shoulder injury issue of the year. On Jan. 10, Martin announced through a university release that freshman guard and former five-star recruit Robert Hubbs needed season-ending surgery on his left shoulder.