Kentucky might have lost more than a basketball game on Tuesday night.
The No. 25 Wildcats also may be without freshman forward Nerlens Noel for a significant time period due to a left knee injury he suffered in the 2nd half of their 69-52 loss to No. 7 Florida. The 6-foot-10 Noel landed awkwardly on his left knee and then slammed the knee into the basket support after chasing down Mike Rosario on a fast break and blocking the shot with 8:03 left.
“I didn’t see much,” Kentucky Wildcats coach John Calipari said. “They said it looked repellent, so I don’t know. We’ll have to see.”
X-rays taken Tuesday night did not show any break or fracture.
Noel, who left the O’Connell Center in a wheelchair, flew back to Lexington, Ky, with the remainder of the team and was back in his room resting Wednesday morning, waiting for an MRI to be scheduled.
“His leg was wobbly, knee looked dislocated,” Gators center Patric Young told the Palm Beach Post. “It was hideous. I do not wish to think about it.”
Noel instantly grabbed his left knee and screamed experiencing discomfort. Trainers straight away rushed to his side and Calipari finally came over and stayed with Noel till he was carried off the court by several teammates.
“He was yelling and screaming, so that’s why I stayed [with him on the floor],” Calipari said. “But it’s unfortunate and I just hope and pray that he’s OK, but we are going to see.”
Losing Noel would be a blow to the Wildcats (17-7, 8-3 SEC), who now trail Florida (20-3, 10-1) by 2 games in the SEC standings. Noel leads the nation in blocked shots (4.5 per game) and averages 10.6 points per game and is 2nd in the SEC in rebounding (9.6 per game). Football odds
Kentucky had been threatening to cut Florida’s lead to single digits before Noel was hurt, but the Kentucky failed to score for nearly 4 minutes after his injury.
“Clearly, he’s a major part of our team so to see him go down is a reminder [of how important he is],” Kentucky guard Julius Mays recounted. “It hurts us because he could be a big guy and he makes the game different.”
Calipari said he didn’t want to speculate about the injury or any probable recovery period.
“I’m physically sick right now,” Calipari said. “What I’m hoping is it isn’t the extreme. I’m hoping it’s some kind of twist, but we don’t know.”
Florida athletic director Jeremy Foley related Wednesday the padded stanchion Noel ran into was set at an NCAA minimum of 8 feet from the court boundary.
“That’s what the building fits,” Foley expounded. “That’s what a lot of buildings fit. We checked with the maker this morning and they revealed Kansas is at 8 feet — Michigan, the Utah Jazz, and Miami Heat.
“It’s not abnormal. It was just unfortunate,” Foley added. “We hope he’s OK. He’s a great player.”