- South Carolina Gamecocks - January 21, 2017 - Rupp Arena - 6:00 PM EST - ESPN
In an effort to bring you the most comprehensive coverage of the Kentucky basketball team’s postseason run,CoachCal.com and Cat Scratches will be teaming up throughout UK’s journey in the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament. You can find stories on the team at CoachCal.com and UKathletics.com/blog.
ATLANTA – The hush that came over the Georgia Dome crowd said it all.
Anthony Davis, on a drive to the basket in the second half against Baylor, took a hard fall and immediately clutched his left knee in pain. All of a sudden, the electricity in the building with Kentucky seemingly on locked on cruise control toward a second consecutive Final Four was short-circuited.
“No!” Michael Kidd-Gilchrist said, recounting his immediate reaction.
Chris Simmons, UK’s head athletic trainer, rushed to tend to Davis while his teammates and the scores of blue-clad fans in attendance looked on with bated breath. The NCAA Tournament’s No. 1 overall seed suddenly seemed much less of an obvious favorite to win the national championship with the status of the national player of the year in the air.
Eventually, Davis got to his feet and limped over to the bench to receive medical attention for what was later diagnosed as a left knee contusion. The focus was anywhere but on the UK-Baylor game that resumed when Darius Miller took Davis’ spot in the lineup. Thousands tried their hand in medicine when the replay was shown on the big screens throughout the stadium, and fans saw the same thing Davis’ teammates did when he first went down.
“We saw him bump knees, so we knew he just knocked knees but we went over there just to make sure he was OK,” Marquis Teague said. “He told us he was alright. His knee just stung a little.”
Once the pain calmed down a bit, Davis didn’t think twice about whether he would check back in.
“I just bumped knees with Perry Jones, and it started hurting real bad,” Davis said. “But I knew my team needed me to play. I wasn’t going to sit out, especially with a trip to the Final Four (on the line), and all of us want to go to the Final Four. So I knew I needed to come in the game and help my team out, so I decided to come in.”
It was a good thing Davis was able to get back on the floor, because Baylor had begun making its run, capitalizing on the energy being seeped out of the Wildcats due to the injury.
“I was very happy for him and for us,” Kidd-Gilchrist said.
After Davis went down with 18:38 left, Terrence Jones stepped to the free-throw line, draining a pair of free throws to lift UK’s led to 46-24. In the 75 seconds with Davis on the bench, Baylor managed to trim the lead by just four points, but the tenor of the game had changed nonetheless.
With concern for Davis’ health persisting as he appeared somewhat uncomfortable upon his return, Baylor made its run. When Brady Heslip hit a 3-pointer with just under nine minutes left, UK’s margin was just 13 points. The Cats eventually settled in, reassured by the welcome and familiar sight of Davis swatting shots. Four of his six blocks – which brought his season total to 175, besting Jarvis Varnado’s previous SEC record – came after his injury. UK’s lead would balloon all the way back up to 19 points before some late missed free throws made the final 82-70.
Although Davis returned and played well – he finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds to earn a spot on the South Regional All-Tournament Team – the immediate question postgame was how his injury would affect him in the rematch with Louisville in the Final Four. Next Saturday’s game, which will tip at 6:09 p.m. ET, is already being talked about as the biggest in the history of the Bluegrass, so Davis’ comments about his availability for the game are reassuring.
“(I will) just go back and get treatment, make sure I can take care of it, ice it, get in the cold tub and stay with the trainer, because you get a lot of treatment, do a few sprints to get it going,” Davis said. “But I’m not going to sit out.”
John Calipari had no reason to think otherwise, and he reaffirmed that Davis will be getting around-the-clock attention.
“He popped up pretty good,” Calipari said. “It may be dinged up a little bit, but he’ll get treatment, believe me. He’ll be having treatment on the plane.”
94 feet: A brief look at UK-Baylor series history