A Kentucky season that’s been an uphill climb from beginning to now got steeper this week with the news that freshman Terrence Clarke will not play for at least another four weeks.
“I’m not going to be specific of what’s wrong, but he (Terrence Clarke) has an injury that he cannot play,” UK Coach John Calipari said after his team lost to Arkansas 81-80 Tuesday. “So everybody on this team, he cried. I cried. Because he’s out another four weeks.”
Kentucky hasn’t had a complete roster all season. Keion Brooks missed the first nine games with a calf injury. Cam’Ron Fletcher had been inactive in 10 of the last 11 games after a squabble about playing time.
The loss to Arkansas was the 11th straight game Clarke has been sidelined.
“He was supposed to be our best player,” Calipari said. “We haven’t had him.”
When asked how Clarke and the team took the news of no play for at least four more weeks, Brandon Boston said, “He’s just trying to stay positive through the whole thing.
“We’ve had a lot of adversity hit us this year. We just have each other’s back.”
Besides missing players, UK has had to deal with the anxiety associated with the coronavirus pandemic, reduced preparation time in the summer and fall and little fan attendance at home games because of COVID protocols.
“And now, you look at this team, I’m proud that they are fighting,” Calipari said. “We still make mistakes and we do some stuff.”
The support for Clarke and each other can make a difference, said Calipari, who added, “But here’s the biggest thing I said to them prior to the game the last two days. … The game is a little easier because you have a bunch of guys looking after you.”
‘Meant the world’
Jalen Tate, a graduate transfer from Northern Kentucky, made two free throws with 4.3 seconds left to give Arkansas the victory.
A native of Pickerington, Ohio, Tate said he needed 25 tickets for family and friends.
“It meant the world …,” he said. “Since I committed to Arkansas, everybody has been trying to get tickets to this game.”
After Tate made the free throws, teammate Davonte Davis spoke to him.
“I told him to go up there, knock them down and the rest, just leave it to me,” Davis said. “It told (teammate) Jaylin Williams that … I was going to get a steal, which is the crazy part. I got the steal.”
Tate, a 6-foot-6 guard, finished with 15 points.
Arkansas came into the game with three players who’ve scored 1,000 points in their college careers and a fourth on the verge of doing so.
The three 1,000-point scorers were Vance Jackson (grad transfer from New Mexico) with 1,080; JD Notae (transfer from Jacksonville) with 1,200) and Tate with 1,167.
Justin Smith, a transfer from Indiana, came into the game needing 10 points to reach 1,000. He scored nine.
Going into the game, the 12 players who have scored for Kentucky this season had a combined 1,305 points.
Counting their three seasons for Wake Forest and Creighton, respectively, Olivier Sarr and Davion Mintz are within striking distance of 1,000. Sarr had 842 points and Mintz 805 going into the game.
Top 10 coaches
While some fans advocate a coaching change for Kentucky, there’s this:
Going into this week’s games, Calipari and Arkansas Coach Eric Musselman ranked tied for fourth and seventh, respectively, in winning percentage among active coaches.
The top two were Mark Few of Gonzaga and Roy Williams of North Carolina.
Musselman began his coaching career at age 23 when he became coach of the Rapid City Thrillers of the CBA.
On Monday, Joel Justus was asked what this season had been like for the staff to endure. He said he’s continued “to pinch myself because I’m an assistant coach at the University of Kentucky. I feel I’m one of the more blessed people.”
Sounding as if he was wooing a prospect, Justus spoke of Kentucky having a Hall of Fame coach who “has a big heart, that cares about people” and the school as “world class in so many different areas.”
Justus was philosophical about Kentucky’s 5-12 record.
“If you’re in this spirit, you are aware you can have great seasons,” he said. “You can have mediocre seasons. Or you can have worse seasons.”
Arkansas snapped an eight-game losing streak against Kentucky. That had been the program’s longest active losing streak against an SEC opponent.