Despite its win on Tuesday night, Kentucky was somewhat defeated by defeated forward Reid Travis, who injured his knee in the Wildcats 66-58 win over Missouri.
The injury occurred during a game that saw Keldon Johnson fall back and land directly on Travis' knee:
Wednesday night, Kentucky confirmed that Travis suffered a sprained right knee and should miss two weeks.
All in all, this is good news for Travis and Kentucky, as it looks like he will be back at the start of the SEC tournament.
"I feel so good that it was more a sprain than anything else because you worry about that stuff when you see someone falling," said the head coach of the United Kingdom John Calipari in a press release. "We are going to be very conservative with that, so he might be missing a few weeks. We hope he'll be ready for the conference tournament or maybe even a little bit earlier, but I'm happy for Reid to get it back. "
Losing Travis for an extended period of time is still not ideal for the Wildcats.
The senior striker averages 11.6 points per game with 7.1 rebounds for Kentucky this season and provides Wildcats especially with a veteran presence unseen at the time of John Calipari.
On Monday, Assistant Head Coach Kenny Payne praised Travis:
"He's a very physical striker who really learned to move his feet and defend himself here. It's not always in statistics, which is what it means for this program, but I can only say this: I can not imagine that Reid Travis is not in this team and what he meant. Imagine being at Stanford for the last two years, with an average of 20 and eight and nine. You come here, the numbers are not the same, but your impact on the program is more important because you are now winning against the country's No. 1 team. "
With five regular season games, EJ Montgomery and Nick Richards will need a strong lead in Kentucky.
On Saturday, Kentucky will face the Auburn Tigers. When the two teams met on January 19, Travis had 17 points and seven rebounds. On the bench, Montgomery and Richards combined for one point and four rebounds.
So, Montgomery and Richards have no time to lose. Both must perform better than their seasonal averages for Kentucky to succeed without Travis.
At this point, neither one nor the other has been able to find a lot of pace in the game, but they both continue to show flashes of becoming men of high stature. The truth is that Kentucky needed one of them to play a bigger role while the NCAA tournament was going to take place soon. Maybe this setback with Travis will allow one of those two to come together and become what Kentucky needs to win a national championship.
But if the two are struggling to bounce back again as they did in Colombia, the day against a physical Auburn team could well be long. Austin Wiley is back after missing the first game due to a knee injury.
That said, Kentucky still has a great chance to beat Auburn and should be able to survive in Arkansas at home next Tuesday without Travis. However, the biggest test of Kentucky so far would be to travel to Knoxville without Travis on March 4 for a rematch.
Still, there should not be a hurried return of Travis. Kentucky should allow him to recover completely while giving the Montgomery-Richards duo a chance to shine. Kentucky needs Travis at 100% or so to succeed in the NCAA Tournament, which should be the ultimate goal.
PJ Washington will also have a crucial role to play not only to continue playing at a high level, but also to become a stronger leader for this Kentucky team. The Wildcats will rely more on him to show leadership in the coming weeks.
Another interesting thing to watch for will be when many big players in Kentucky will be in big trouble. If this happens, we could see four guards align with Ashton Hagans, Immanuel Quickley, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson in 1 to 4 places.
All in all, the Kentucky teams need Travis to reach his full potential in March and, fortunately, it looks like he will find him again soon.