So it was a much-needed sigh of relief Wednesday morning when X-rays and an MRI scan on sophomore guard Antonio Barton revealed a bone bruise and a mid-foot sprain and not a Jones fracture as was initially feared.
Barton, who sustained the injury during the last play of the first half in an 84-55 win against UCF on Tuesday, is listed as doubtful for Saturday's regular season finale against Tulsa. Memphis coach Josh Pastner said he expects Barton to return for the Conference USA tournament, which begins Mar. 6.
"We're gonna hope he can play for Saturday, but that's gonna be on his ability to play, because he has been cleared," Pastner said.
A Jones fracture almost always requires immediate surgery and, with a four-to-eight week rehab process, would have ended the 6-foot-2 guard's season.
The Tigers' postseason aspirations could be heightened, too, with the probable return of Thomas. Thomas started 5-on-0 drills today and will start practicing with contact next week. The 6-foot-6 forward hasn't played since Jan. 11.
At the time of his injury, Thomas was averaging 9.7 points and 3.6 rebounds per game.
"We're just game-by-game," Pastner said. "That's all we can keep it at. Our only focus is Saturday. Right now I can only play the guys that are cleared to play medically. We'll go with whoever's cleared to play Saturday."