LEXINGTON, Ky. — Starting Kentucky point guard Quade Green, who missed the last three games with a back injury, will likely be a game-time decision Saturday against Florida, coach John Calipari said Friday.
“Be nice if he could give us some minutes just so Shai [Gilgeous-Alexander] can sit out five minutes a half or so,” Calipari said, “but we’ll see.”
Green was spotted walking into the team practice facility Friday wearing his practice shorts and basketball shoes — but also moving slowly and gingerly and carrying what appeared to be a heating pad. He suffered a back strain in the first half against Tennessee on Jan. 6.
Calipari outlined what the 18th-ranked Wildcats (14-4, 4-2 SEC) are missing without him: “One more perimeter shooter, one more guy that can make baskets. He leads, he talks — he’s one of the most talkative guys — so it has affected us.”
Gilgeous-Alexander, the team’s only other real point guard, played 39 minutes in both UK’s narrow escapes against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt last week, earning SEC Freshman of the Week honors for his herculean effort (38 points, 11 rebounds, 11 assists combined). But he and the Cats collapsed finally at South Carolina on Tuesday.
Gilgeous-Alexander got into early foul trouble and out of sync all night, finishing with 6 points, 6 turnovers and zero assists in 28 minutes and Kentucky blew a 14-point lead with under 12 minutes to go. Jarred Vanderbilt, a 6-foot-9 freshman forward making his college debut after a long recovery from a foot injury, had to handle point guard duties for stretches when Gilgeous-Alexander picked up his second foul in the first half and fourth foul in the second.
Vanderbilt did that job far better than anyone expected, but it’s clear the Cats need Green back. The former McDonald’s All-American has started 13 games, averaging 10.7 points, 3.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds. He’s shooting 40 percent from 3-point range and 79.3 percent at the free-throw line.
It would be a significant boost if he can play at all Saturday against Florida (13-5, 5-1), which boasts arguably the best and deepest backcourt in the league. Tipoff is 8:15 p.m. ET on ESPN.