Shortly before tip-off, head coach John Calipari revealed both players did not travel with the team to Columbia, as Clarke is still recovering from his ankle injury, while Toppin is out due to an illness that is not related to COVID-19.
In addition, assistant coach Joel Justus also did not travel with the team, though it’s unclear why he didn’t make the trip, or if it’s related to Kentucky’s recent COVID-19 issues, which led to last Saturday’s game vs. Texas being canceled.
Clarke being out is no surprise, as the freshman guard has yet to return to practice since injuring his ankle in late December.
Toppin is missing his first game of the season, as the sophomore forward is averaging 4.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 0.9 steals in 15.3 minutes per game this season. He did not score in last week’s loss at Alabama.
Justus is in his fifth season as an assistant coach at Kentucky. This will be the first game he’s missed since coming to Lexington in 2014.
The good news is freshman guard Brandon Boston Jr. will play tonight after injuring his ankle in last week’s loss to Alabama. Kentucky has already announced Boston will start tonight.