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Kentucky received the news it dreaded Wednesday when freshman forward Nerlens Noel was declared out for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee.
Noel tore his ACL on Tuesday night when No. 25 Kentucky lost at Florida. An MRI revealed the injury, and the 6-foot-10 forward will have surgery in the next two or three weeks.
The projected recovery period is six to eight months.
Noel's injury deals a serious postseason blow for the defending national champions, who had appeared to be gaining some footing after struggling earlier this season while trying to blend in four freshmen. Leading the way defensively for the Wildcats was Noel, who began Tuesday first in the nation with 4.5 blocks per game.
The rookie took a positive approach to the diagnosis, posting on Twitter, "Minor setback for a MAJOR comeback! I love you all and can't thank y'all enough for the prayers."
"I've been coaching for 22 years and this is the first injury we've had of this kind during the season, which makes it even more devastating," Kentucky coach John Calipari said in a statement.
No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68 • At Durham, N.C., Mason Plumlee had 18 points and 11 rebounds and Duke beat North Carolina. Quinn Cook scored 18 points and Rasheed Sulaimon added 13 for the Blue Devils.
• No. 1 Indiana 76, Nebraska 47
• No. 2 Duke 73, North Carolina 68
• No. 3 Miami 74, Florida St. 68
• UConn 66, No. 6 Syracuse 58
• Charlotte 71, No. 11 Butler 67
• No. 17 Oklahoma State 91, Texas Tech 67
• No. 19 New Mexico 54, Fresno State 48
• No. 21 Notre Dame 82, DePaul 78
• No. 22 Memphis 93, UCF 71
• No. 23 Oregon 65, Washington 52
• No. 24 Colorado State 66, San Diego State 60