GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Kentucky failed its most important test to date but the examination meant little in the grand scheme of the Wildcats' season with the visual of Nerlens Noel being carried off the court by teammates.
Noel appeared to injury his left knee with 8:03 remaining when he slammed into the basket support after chasing down and blocking a breakaway drive by Florida's Mike Rosario. Television replays showed Noel's knee buckle and he immediately crumpled to the floor while screaming as team doctors rushed to his side.
It was a brutal image in a game that Florida dominated from the outset, pulling away for a 69-52 victory at a sold out O'Connell Center to extend its lead to two games in the Southeastern Conference race. The Cats' (17-7, 8-3) challenge in catching the Gators (20-3, 10-1) becomes much more daunting if Noel is seriously injured.
Florida hit three consecutive three-pointers – all with little defensive presence in the area - late in the first half to open a 12-point lead, then saw lightly used reserve Casey Prather nearly blow the roof off the O-Dome by posterizing Willie Cauley-Stein off Scottie Wilbekin's behind the back pass.