Noel injury underscores rough night for Cats

Kentucky may have lost more than just a game Tuesday in Gainesville, Fla. The Wildcats also saw freshman center Nerlens Noel go down with a potentially serious knee injury midway through the second half of a 69-52 loss to the Gators.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Kentucky may have lost more than just a game Tuesday.

The freshly-ranked Wildcats, back in the AP poll at No. 25 after an uncharacteristically-long hiatus, were mauled 69-52 by No. 7 Florida at the O'Connell Center, but the bigger loss may have come to UK's roster for the remainder of the season.

After hustling back on defense to block a shot following one of Kentucky's 17 turnovers, Nerlens Noel saw his left knee buckle as he landed awkwardly at the basket support. The freshman center writhed in pain for several moments and was eventually carried off the court by his teammates with 8:03 remaining in the game.

Noel, who was averaging 10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots entering the game, was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. He was scheduled to return to Lexington with the team, but his status was unknown.

"We probably won't know until we get back on campus," UK coach John Calipari said. "But it didn't look good."

It was that kind of night for Kentucky (17-7, 8-3 SEC) which saw a five-game winning streak come to an end. The Wildcats saw the Gators carve their typically-strong defense for 49 percent shooting from the field and score 36 points in the paint. Florida also tallied 20 points off UK turnovers.

"We didn't battle," Calipari said. "We had too many guys who were timid and tentative and didn't want to battle.

"We've got to get back to the drawing board."

Florida (20-3, 10-1 SEC) got double-figure scoring from five players, led by junior guard Scottie Wilbekin with 14. Mike Rosario, Patric Young and Casey Prather each followed with 12, while Erik Murphy added 10. Young also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds for the Gators.

"We knew they were going to be a good team, and they were tonight," UK senior guard Julius Mays said. "We didn't give enough effort, and they had a lot of open shots."

Mays added that he thought UK played "scared" and did not handle the hostile road atmosphere well.

Mays and Willie Cauley-Stein each scored 10 for Kentucky. Noel posted eight points, six rebounds and three blocked shots before leaving with the injury.

The Wildcats saw three starters -- Alex Poythress, Archie Goodwin and Ryan Harrow -- combine for only 13 points on 5-for-21 shooting from the field. They also committed six of UK's turnovers.

"We had a guy go 1-for-9 on 2-footers," Calipari said of Poythress.

NOTES:

* Kentucky leads the all-time series with Florida 93-34 and 33-23 in Gainesville, but the Gators snapped a five-game losing streak to the Wildcats.

* The Wildcats trailed 38-25 at the half. UK is 1-6 when trailing at the break. The 13-point deficit marked the largest hole of the season for UK at the half. The previous high was 11 at Notre Dame.

* Kentucky had held seven of its last eight opponents to under 40 percent shooting from the field.

* UK returns to action on Saturday at Tennessee. Tipoff is slated for 1 p.m. ET on CBS.

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