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Just as one key member of this season’s Kentucky men’s basketball team returned to the rotation after a lengthy injury absence, another star Wildcat found himself stuck on the sideline.
While Saturday night’s SEC matchup between Kentucky and Arkansas featured the return of UK sophomore Adou Thiero after he missed seven games with a lingering back injury, star freshman guard Rob Dillingham didn’t play for the Wildcats.
Dillingham missed Saturday’s game due to illness. In a pregame radio interview, UK head coach John Calipari said Dillingham had a stomach virus.
The Kentucky coach elaborated postgame about the illness that kept Dillingham from playing.
“We found out at the shootaround that his stomach and all that, and I said, ‘Well then go back to the hotel. See if you can get ready for the game,’” Calipari said. “And at about 12:45 I got the message that he wasn’t going to play.”
With Dillingham out, head coach John Calipari’s team is still yet to play a game during the 2023-24 season at full strength. Saturday marked the 19th game of the season.
Calipari also made a change to UK’s starting lineup Saturday, with Thiero taking the place of freshman Justin Edwards, who recently suffered a leg injury in practice.
Dillingham — who is averaging 13.9 points and nearly four assists per game this season — has embraced the super-sub role that he and fellow freshman Reed Sheppard have been thrust into. It’s routine at this point for Calipari to signal to Dillingham and Sheppard to check into the game with about 17:00 remaining in the first half.
And the results of this substitution pattern for Dillingham have been more than effective: He ranks in the top 15 in the SEC in both assists per game and points per game.
Dillingham’s best performances this season have included a career-high 23 points in a home win earlier this month over Missouri, as well as an 18-point outburst against then-No. 1 Kansas in just his third college game.
Dillingham had a career-high nine assists in UK’s home win over Miami (Fla.) in November.
Saturday at Arkansas was the first game Dillingham — who is currently projected as a lottery pick in the 2024 NBA draft — has missed in his college career.