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By LARRY VAUGHT
Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings made sure to let Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel that he was thinking about him after his season-ending injury. The Kentucky freshman watched UK beat Vanderbilt 74-70 in Rupp Arena Wednesday after having his year ended when he tore the ACL in his left knee last week at Florida.
“I am very disappointed for the young man that tore his ACL. That is a shame. I had a daughter that tore her ACL three times, so I am familiar with the injury and my heart goes out to him. Our best wishes go out to him,” said Stallings.
Kentucky lost by 30 points at Tennessee Saturday in its first game without Noel.
“I think one of two things generally happens with that (when a star player is hurt). Either the next game the team pulls together and overcomes the loss with emotion, effort and energy where everyone plays above themselves — which it’s pretty apparent that that wasn’t what happened on Saturday,” Stallings said. “Then, generally speaking, if that doesn’t happen they need some time to re-orient and get used to what else is going to take place.”
Vanderbilt center Josh Henderson, who had 13 points and two rebounds Wednesday, said facing UK without Noel was different.
“He is a great player. He is really good at protecting the rim. He is one of the most athletic guys,” Henderson said. “He led the SEC in rebound and blocks. It definitely opened up the lane and it definitely took away a big presence they have.”