Originally posted on StraitPinkie.com  |  Last updated 2/13/13
After a competitive first few minutes, the Florida Gators started hitting their shots. Then they started getting out in transition. Kentucky didn’t help their cause by committing turnover after turnover. The Gators took full advantage of the miscues, and the route was on. On that night, Florida was just flat out better than the ‘Cats. While the ‘Cats never gave up on the game, the Gators laid the hammer down and cruised to a 17-point victory. The 17-point defeat is the worst loss under Calipari since losing to UConn in the 2010 Maui Invitational by 17.  The guard play and size differences exposed the ‘Cats physically and mentally. Already heading towards a loss, the 2nd half was winding down with a little over 5 minutes left to play. The season, and a young man’s career took a direct hit right at the knees. Nerlens Noel was hustling back on defense and rose up to block another shot into the 3rd row. As he landed, his right knee buckled and he instantly collapsed and began to grasp his knee in agony. The screams coming from Noel was enough of a sign for anyone to declare this was not just a twist or a sprain. Countless replays of the incident saw the knee dislocate and pop back into place. After the trainers cleared away, Noel needed to be helped off of the court. He was not able to put any pressure at all on his knee, so his teammates came over and picked him up. With Archie Goodwin under his left arm, and Julius Mays under his right, Noel was lifted at the thighs from Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein. Kyle Wiltjer followed closely behind. The others had a game to finish, and Noel had a new challenge to face that is greater than a game with Florida. John Calipari said this is the first time in his 22 years of coaching to have this kind of significant injury happen to one of his premier players. For a Kentucky fan, we remember the critical injuries of Derek Anderson (’97″) and Keith Bogans (’03) which may have cost the ‘Cats a couple of national titles. After hearing of Noel’s injury Anderson tweeted that he was coming Kentucky “NOW” to help Noel with his recovery. Anderson blew out his knee in January and was still a lottery pick in June. Noel will have surgery in 2-3 weeks, and his total rehab will be a 6-8 month process. Noel goes into the record books as 2nd all-time in at Kentucky for blocks, and 3rd all-time in the SEC. The latest mock draft projections have Noel falling to #3 from being #1 before the injury. Most have him projected to still be #1, but may fall as far as #5. John Calipari said today that Noel suffered no bone breaks, but has torn his ACL. Noel is out for the rest of the season, but has taken a very positive attitude toward the situation. Noel got to his Twitter account to thank the fans for the support and prayers. He says “A minor setback for a MAJOR comeback.” It is fitting that Noel’s last play was a thunderous block while hustling back on defense. Take away the fact that college basketball has lost one of it’s biggest stars. Take away the fact that he plays for the University of Kentucky. Nerlens Noel is a truly exceptional person, and that is worth so much more than what he does on the basketball court. As Noel will begin his painful process back to recovery, the ‘Cats now have 7 weeks to prove themselves to the NCAA Tournament committee. Whether it’s visiting nursing homes and hospitals, or wearing the #3 on the court, Nerlens Noel will be missed dearly. I continue to pray for his recovery and am thankful to have witnessed such a remarkable human playing for my favorite team.
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