LEXINGTON — Kentucky basketball extended its winning streak to six games with a 78-57 win over Florida, but some of the day’s excitement was dampened by an injury to freshman guard TyTy Washington.
Junior forward Oscar Tshiebwe recorded his 19th double-double in 25 games (27 points and 19 rebounds) to lead Kentucky. He was joined in double digits by super senior guards Kellan Grady (15) and Davion Mintz (11) and Washington (10).
Kentucky took a 20-6 lead less than six minutes into the game. Florida then used a 15-2 run to draw one, but Kentucky stabilized the ship to take a 33-28 halftime lead. The Wildcats opened the second half on a 13-2 streak to end any drama.
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The win moved Kentucky to 21-4 on the season and 10-2 in SEC play. Here’s what you need to know about performance.
TyTy Washington victory over injury to Mars
Kentucky played the game without junior forward Jacob Toppin, who injured his left ankle in the first half of Kentucky’s win Tuesday at South Carolina. The injury problem escalated when Washington was sidelined with his own ankle injury when Florida guard Brandon McKissic cut his leg and landed on him as he dived for a ball loose with 12:50 left in the game.
Washington rolled down the field in obvious pain for a few seconds before jumping and hobbling straight towards the British locker room. He was unable to put much weight on his left leg when leaving the field.
With Toppin out, Calipari experimented with rookie Bryce Hopkins at four in the first half, but Hopkins posted no stats in two minutes of action. Kentucky had some success with second-year forward Lance Ware, the normal backup center, playing alongside Tshiebwe when starting forward Keion Brooks needed a break.
If Washington is out for an extended period, questions about the status of first-year goaltender Shaedon Sharpe will surely arise again. Britain manager John Calipari announced this week that Sharpe, the former No. need for another scorer increases if Washington is running out of time. .
For now, however, the worst-case scenario seems to have been avoided.
While appearing on Britain’s post-match radio show, Mintz said he thought “TyTy should be fine”. Calipari said he’s not yet sure of Washington’s status for Tuesday’s game at Tennessee, but is likely “day to day” with a left leg injury.
An x-ray of Washington’s leg revealed nothing to be alarming, Calipari said, but training personnel had not yet ruled out any soft tissue injuries.
“He could still be out for a week or two, who knows? said Calipari. “It could be a muscle, it could be something that separated, because it was hit hard.”
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Tension rises after injury
While there doesn’t appear to have been anything intentional on McKissic’s part in the game where Washington was injured, the Rupp Arena crowd loudly booed him every time he touched the ball for the remainder of the match.
Emotions nearly boiled over when Florida’s Myreon Jones fell to the ground after Ware tangled his arm as he tried to grab the ball. Ware, who initially watched Jones on the ground for seconds after being called for the foul, had started to walk away when guard Florid Phlandrous Fleming rushed to the scene to give an unnecessary push on the back. The trade happened directly in front of the Kentucky bench, and assistant Orlando Antigua briefed Ware on the area as his teammates protested.
After a lengthy review, officials called no technical fouls on Fleming, leading to more boos from the crowd.
“The other Florida players came up to me and said, ‘Coach, we’re all fine,'” Calipari said. “I said, ‘Thank you, we are too.’ Our team got together and said, “We don’t accept this. We are not. That’s not who we are. We are afraid of winning the game.”
“So it was probably good that it happened. Not that (Washington) got hurt, but that kind of a scrum and then our response. Like Lance responded really well. He just laughed.”
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Sahvir Wheeler ends his freefall
After three straight games without converting a field goal, junior point guard Sahvir Wheeler must have felt relief when his first shot of the afternoon, a 3-pointer just over three minutes into the game, went down.
The mark ended a 19-game missed shot streak for Wheeler, dating back to the second half of the Jan. 29 win at Kansas.
“He has a big impact on the game like everyone else, even if he doesn’t shoot,” Calipari said of Wheeler Friday. “Defensively directing us, creating, breaking people. He’s worried about getting shots.
“…But it doesn’t matter to our team. ‘When it doesn’t matter to you, Sahvir, you’re going to shoot more.”
Wheeler was limited to just seven minutes in the first half due to foul issues, but still led Kentucky in plus/minus (+30) for the game. He finished the day with nine points, six rebounds and zero turnovers.
“I wouldn’t be here in Kentucky if I wasn’t making baskets, if I wasn’t impacting the game, I couldn’t score the ball,” Wheeler said. “They don’t just hand out the shirts here. I just trusted my process, knowing it’s going to come back to me. You don’t live on top of the mountain forever. Sometimes you gotta come back, you gotta come down Then your next achievement is to climb another mountain.That’s what happened today where I finally managed to knock one down.
“When I did, I was pretty happy to see one come in.”
Email Jon Hale at [email protected]; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.