They were on a five-game winning streak, a run that got them back in the Top 25 for the first time since the third week of the regular season. Things couldn't have turned any worse for the defending national champions Tuesday night.
And it wasn't because No. 25 Kentucky lost to No. 7 Florida 69-52. With 8 minutes to go, star freshman Nerlens Noel went down with a knee injury.
He was on the court, screaming in pain as he was tended to by trainers.
"I don't know what ended up happening, but it was clear from him moaning in pain that he was struggling," Gators coach Billy Donovan said.
Noel was injured when he landed awkwardly on his left leg after blocking Mike Rosario's layup from behind. He crashed into the basket support, dropped to the ground and started screaming as he clutched his left knee.
"I'm physically sick right now for him," Kentucky coach John Calipari said. "What I'm hoping is it's not the extreme. I'm hoping it's some sort of twist, but we don't know."
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Noel was pushed through the hallways of the O'Connell Center in a wheelchair, with his left leg extended and in a brace. He was transported to Shands Hospital on Florida's campus for tests, but was expected to return with the team to Lexington, Ky.
He had eight points, six rebounds and three blocks before getting hurt. He entered the game averaging 10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and a national-leading 4.5 blocks.
"He's a vital part of our team, so we hope for the best," Kentucky forward Kyle Wiltjer said.
Kentucky appeared rattled after Noel's injury.
"His leg was wobbly, looked like his knee was dislocated," Florida's Patric Young said. "It was gruesome. I don't even want to think about it."
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