After losing his No. 1 ranking, his undefeated record and having his NCAA-record 65 game conference win streak snapped, Kentucky head coach John Calipari opened his post-game press conference on Tuesday night with a compliment for the Gamecocks.
“What a great environment,” he said. “Hats off to South Carolina. They out-worked us.”
Calipari said that in previous games for the Wildcats, the team was able to pull out the win in the end on sheer talent.
“We’ve had this happen in other games, but we were good enough in the end to win it anyway,” he said. “For our team, this is what happens when you have young guys who think they can win it in the end.”
When asked what led to Kentucky faltering just a day after gaining the nation’s No. 1 ranking, Calipari pointed to a failure to rebound the ball.
“We just gave them one offensive rebound after another,” said Calipari. “We’re supposed to be one of the best rebounding teams in the country.”
The Gamecocks won the rebounding battle 44-40, grabbing 20 offensive rebounds to Kentucky’s 16.
Calipari credited Darrin Horn’s game plan for slowing down the Wildcats and playing the game on their terms.
“They had a great game plan. Run the clock down and play pick and roll with Devan. They executed,” he said. “They made us play the way we played tonight. They deserved to win. They outworked us with their gameplan and what they were doing. They were well coached.”
Calipari believes his underclassmen-laden team will learn from Tuesday’s loss.
“It’s a great lesson. A lot of times until you take an “L”, they don’t want to believe you. Especially with young we are,” he said.
Despite the frustrations with his young team’s mistakes, Calipari wouldn’t take away any credit from the Gamecocks for earning the upset.
“They just played to the bitter end. They beat us and they deserved to win.”