A crowd of more than 17,000 went silent as Janee Thompson’s screams echoed throughout Colonial Life Arena.
The Kentucky point guard clutched her ankle and screamed in pain as teammates and opponents hid their faces and started to cry.
With 4:08 left to go, the junior from Chicago left the game on a stretcher after a “freak accident” and was taken to a local hospital for more tests, but the initial diagnosis was a dislocated left ankle.
“It’s not a minor injury; it doesn’t look good,” said Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell, who kneeled by Thompson’s side as medical personnel put a brace on her leg before carting her off.
During a scramble for a loose ball, South Carolina’s Khadijah Sessions dived on the floor, undercutting Thompson’s legs from behind and the UK guard’s legs got trapped underneath and turned awkwardly.
“When I turned, I kind of just, it didn’t look right,” Gamecocks forward Aleighsa Welch said. “It didn’t look the way a leg is supposed to look. It kind of just, I honestly think it sent shockwaves through everybody.”
Thompson was recruited heavily by South Carolina and even went on a visit to Columbia, so the coaches and players know the UK guard well.
“It was horrific what happened to Janee,” Coach Dawn Staley said afterward. “Our hearts go out to her and we want to make sure she’s OK.”
Thompson was taken to a local hospital and UK administrator Candice Chaffin stayed behind with her as the team headed back to Lexington.
The players said it was difficult to go back to the game after what they witnessed. Everyone in the arena gave Thompson a long, loud applause as she was carted off the playing floor with a towel on her face.
“No matter who you’re playing against, you don’t want to see something like that happen to somebody,” Welch said. “You can be the biggest competitors in the world, but you have a soft spot when something like that happens because it’s heart breaking.
“It’s just two teams playing hard. It’s just a freak accident. … Our prayers are with her. I told (UK guard) Makayla Epps after the game to let her know our prayers are with her and that team and we’re hoping she can come back to a speedy recovery.”
Kentucky’s coach thanked the South Carolina medical staff for its work in a difficult situation.
“What a great group of people that cared for her out there on the court,” Mitchell said. “I can’t say enough about those folks. Really, really just lept into action and were extremely competent and extremely comforting to her.”
Thompson came into the game as the Cats’ fourth-leading scorer at 10.1 points a game, including 10.7 Southeastern Conference play. She leads the team in assists (49) and is second on the team in steals (28).
Before the injury, Thompson had started in a team-best 31 straight games. She has been clutch in several come-from-behind victories for the Cats this season.