Injury-riddled No. 9 Kentucky entertains UAB

The Associated Press

Injuries keep hurting No. 9 Kentucky, which will host Alabama-Birmingham on Friday night.

Graduate transfer forward Nate Sestina on Tuesday suffered a fractured left when he tried to brace himself. Surgery was required.

"He just fell, and you know, it's his left wrist; it's not his right," coach John Calipari said Wednesday. "He may be out three weeks, maybe out four. Hoping the shorter, but I'm not going to rush him."

Sestina becomes the sixth player to join the injured list just six games into the season, including all three post players for the Wildcats (5-1).

Forward Nick Richards suffered a sprained ankle in a Nov. 1 exhibition. The junior did not miss any games, but had to come off the bench and played barely half the game in UK's upset of No. 1 Michigan State four days later.

Forward EJ Montgomery played only 14 minutes against Michigan State on Nov. 5 before hurting his foot. His missed three games, including Kentucky's stunning loss to Evansville, before returning Nov. 22 against Mount Saint Mary's.

Point guard Ashton Hagans suffered a leg injury before the Nov. 12 Evansville game. He played against the Aces but was ineffective defensively.

Guard Immanuel Quickley suffered a chest injury in practiced and missed the Utah Valley game on Nov. 18.

Guard Dontaie Allen has yet to play this season while recovering from ACL surgery. He practiced in the half court for the first time all year on Wednesday.

"It's unfortunate, but it's part of what we do," Calipari said. "I'm not going to fret. It is what it is. I've done it before. It's not like I haven't, and it kind of got me going."

The injuries have led Calipari to experiment with a four-guard lineup and other options heading into Friday when UK will have only two true post players -- Richards and Montgomery.

Statistically, that's a feasible option as three of the top four scorers for Kentucky are guards. Freshman Tyrese Maxey is tops at 16.0 points per game with Hagans at 13.7 and Quickley at 13.2. Richards averages 14.0 and a team best 8.2 rebounds.

As a team, Kentucky averages 78.2 points and is shooting 46.9 percent, including 29.6 from 3-point range. That's a far cry from the 21.3 percent UK was shooting just two games ago when it ranked 346th out of 350 teams nationally. The Wildcats' 10-of-22 effort against Lamar in the last game lifted that average.

UAB (4-1) also is led in scoring by guards. Tavin Lovan is tops at 13.2, Jalen Benjamin is at 12.4 and Zack Bryant scores 11.0. Will Butler leads in rebounding at 6.6.

As a team, the Blazers score 64.0 points per game and are shooting 40.8 percent, only 26.2 from 3-point range.

Kentucky and UAB have three common opponents. Both teams defeated Lamar -- Kentucky by 25, UAB by nine. Both teams defeated Mount Saint Mary's -- UK by 20, UAB by seven. UK defeated Utah Valley by eight points, UAB lost by 11.

"I'm trying different stuff," Calipari said. "How would we play with this unit? I'm trying to hold guys accountable. I've been a little bit tougher on the guys, which is what I do during this time of the year. It's not acceptable. Some of the stuff is not their fault.

"Every team has issues. I just hope everybody else's issues are worse than ours, but every team has issues. It's what it is."

--Field Level Media

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