By LARRY VAUGHT
Just when it seemed like the play of Derek Willis had given Kentucky exactly the boost it needed to be a Final Four contender, he’s now out with an injury.
Willis had to leave the second half of Saturday’s 79-77 loss at Texas A&M with an ankle injury and did not return. He was 1-for-4 from the field and had three points and one rebound when he left. He had complained after Thursday’s win over Tennessee that both knees ached and that he had hurt his ankle in practice earlier in the week.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said after the game that all he knew was that it was a “pretty bad sprain.”
Point guard Tyler Ulis would not use Willis’ injury as an excuse for the loss.
“It hurt, but we can’t think about it. Next guy has gotta step up. Isaac (Humphries) came in, Charles (Matthews) came in and everybody just came in, gave minutes for us and did a good job,” Ulis said.
Kentucky hosts Alabama Tuesday night. The Cats still lead the SEC at 10-4 with four games left since Tennessee beat LSU Saturday. LSU, South Carolina and now Texas A&M are now 9-5 with Vanderbilt and Florida at 8-6. Kentucky hosts Alabama and LSU and still has to play at Vandy and South Carolina.
Kentucky could get a boost if Alex Poythress could come back from his mysterious knee injury that has kept him out the last two weeks.
Calipari said he wasn’t sure if Poythress would be back next week or not.
“Next man up. Maybe it’s Charles Matthews. Next man up. We’ve been doing it all year. Hearing about depleted teams and all this stuff. We’ve been doing it all year. Guy’s walking in prior to a game. He’s out. This guy’s out, that guy. It’s just next man up. You play the ballgames,” Calipari said.