In last night's loss against the Kentucky Wildcats, both Senior Guard Nick Williams and Sophomore Forward Aaron Jones suffered injuries that forced them into early exits from the game. Both players have been consistently relied upon for bench production this year, and their absence has the potential to spell trouble for an Ole Miss team that is looking for a strong close to their season and its first NCAA Tournament birth since 2002.
In the final minutes of the 2nd half, a sprinting Aaron Jones collapsed near half-court after planting his foot awkwardly; it was immediately evident that Jones was seriously injured, clutching his knee and writhing in pain. Jones was helped off the floor under the power of two trainers while Ole Miss fans collectively feared the worst any time a player falls to the ground grabbing his knee: ACL. In his post-game press conference, Coach Andy Kennedy was brief and to the point: "It doesn't look good. It's a knee, and the initial prognosis is not good." Early this morning, Jones took to Twitter to confirm the fears that he will be out for an extended period of time:
- "About to get a MRI on my knee" (7:09 AM)
- "Not the news I was hoping for" (11:03 AM)
- "Minor setback for a major comeback" (11:07 AM)
- In reply to another Twitter user "It's tore" (11:10 AM)
Nick Williams has played through pain from an injured foot throughout the season; last night, Coach Kennedy had this to say: "We think the ligament in the bottom of his foot snapped. In fact, we're pretty sure it did." Kennedy went on to say that sometimes such an injury can actually be helpful to pain symptoms and that nothing could be known for sure until an MRI was conducted. Williams also took to Twitter this afternoon with one simple tweet:
- "Thanks for all the prayers and support my #RebelFamily I love you guys! I'll be back soon #HottyToddy" (1:23 PM)
How soon remains unclear.
What is clear, however, is the potential impact the loss of Jones and Williams will have on the basketball team. Combined, Jones and Williams account for 12.9 points per game, 6.7 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game, 1.7 blocks per game, and 41.4 minutes per game. Williams is also tied for the highest free throw percentage on the team at 85.3%. Williams and Jones are 1st and 2nd, respectively, in minutes per game off the bench, making them the most often used bench players by Coach Kennedy. Together, they account for 16% of Ole Miss' 5th in the nation scoring attack and 16% of Ole Miss' 12th in the nation rebounding production. Assuming Williams is also unable to go this Saturday in Gainesville, the depth for guards and forwards will look like this:
A front court that was initially 7 deep has lost Jason Carter to dismissal and Demarco Cox and Aaron Jones to injury. A significant load of minutes are sure to come for Newby, Perez, and Brutus in this weekend's matchup.