On the day he learned he'd gotten all A's for the fall semester, Kentucky fan favorite Sam Malone tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. That meant he'll need a fourth major knee surgery in the last five years.
"Unfortunately, he's become an expert at bouncing back from these things," the player's father, Joe Malone, said Tuesday. "I hope and pray he'll have the strength to do it yet again."
During his high school career, Malone tore an ACL, required a separate repair of a torn meniscus and underwent microfracture knee surgery. The latest major injury came in the final minutes of UK's victory over Chattanooga on Saturday.
"To his credit, after a few hours of being in a state of shock, he seems to be bouncing back pretty well," his father said.
After UK beat Samford Tuesday night, UK Coach John Calipari said he tried to encourage Malone.
"I feel bad for the kid but, like I told him ... life throws you curves, man," Calipari said. "Fate intervenes in our lives sometimes, and you have to deal with it and use it as a positive."
Malone's go-get-em approach to basketball quickly made him a fan favorite. He'd taken six shots in 13 total minutes, making three baskets.
The elder Malone said his son had recovered from the initial shock and had adopted a practical attitude about the need for another surgery and the lengthy rehabilitation period. Malone plans to consult with his former surgeon when he returns to his native Boston for the holidays, then have the surgery upon returning to Kentucky, his father said.
His son planned to resume his basketball career.
"That's my sense," the elder Malone said. "After a couple hours of literally being numb when the doctors told him the news, he then was saying, 'OK, what's the strategy?'
"As a dad, I can't say enough about how proud I am. He's a young man, not a boy."
Calipari saluted Darius Miller (17 points, five assists, no turnovers in 31 minutes). But the UK coach lamented that he grabbed only two rebounds.
"Come on, now," Calipari said. "You're 6-7, and you put your head on the rim. Why weren't you getting those balls?"
Then Calipari answered his own question. "Because I've got to go in there, and there are people in there," he said before returning to his own voice. "Go in there and get eight rebounds. Go do it."
Calipari linked Miller's recent shooting slump (3-for-17 from three-point range in the last four games) to a lack of defensive zeal and hustle.
"That's why you dive on the floor and take a charge, you come up with a tough rebound," the UK coach said. "You want all of that to happen before you get the three."
Miller acknowledged "lapses" by several players. "Us having bad habits," he said.
On the bright side, Miller made three of six three-point shots. He credited watching video of the 2010 Southeastern Conference Tournament, when he made five of 11 three-point shots.
To explain the better shooting against Samford, Miller said he tried not to rush and not shoot on the way down.
Calipari had so few concerns about Terrence Jones' long-term health that the UK coach joked about the All-America candidate's status.
"I'll probably make him the 13th man now that we won without him," Calipari said before adding, "He'll be fine."
Jones sat out the game. He dislocated a finger on his shooting hand against Chattanooga Saturday.
On the plus side, Calipari said Jones' absence meant more playing time for Kyle Wiltjer (22 minutes), Eloy Vargas (season-high 17) and Miller.
Freshman Anthony Davis continued to be the tough-luck kid when it comes to block-charge calls. He went down twice against Samford, the first resulting in a non-call and the second a blocking call.
He also went 0-for-2 against Chattanooga on Saturday.
"Apparently, I'm not doing something right," said Davis, who noted how the Cats work on taking charges. "I'll keep stepping in to take the charge."
Calipari volunteered that the Cats had a team grade-point average of 2.7 in the fall semester.
"It's not the 3.0 that we want," he said. "... Here's what's crazy about basketball. Basketball only has 13 players. So what happens if two guys screw up? It drops that overall (GPA)."
Calipari noted how football has many more players and more room for error.
"You have to have 40 of them screw up to drop it," he said as reporters chuckled. "I'm not trying to kill football."