By LARRY VAUGHT
Two days hasn’t been enough for Kentucky to get over losing to Kansas in the Champions Classic.
“We’re still thinking about the game. We’re a young team. We just think we should have won the game. We’re thinking about the slow start or a couple plays that happened near the end,” UK sophomore Wenyen Gabriel said Thursday. “Cal is trying to let us know it’s a whole game process what happened in that loss. He’s proud of us still.
“It’s just a learning process. I feel like a lot guys saw from that game we’re a young team, we have a lot of potential and we’re just trying to get better.”
Redshirt freshman Hamidou Diallo called the Kansas game a “good learning experience” for UK despite the loss.
“Kansas is a great team. They have great players. They competed, we competed and we just couldn’t come up with the victory,” Diallo said. “It was a close game. We just gotta be happy with that. It was a learning experience and just gotta get better until hopefully we see them again in March.”
Going into Friday’s game with East Tennessee State, Gabriel says he’s seen changes in his young teammates.
“Their confidence starts picking up more. Just the way we’re coming together as a team. Just see a lot of them come in as boys and start to become men as the time goes on,” Gabriel said. “A lot of maturity starting to come on. We all face a lot of challenges here, just seeing how we bounce back from different challenges is really impressive.”
Gabriel believes the more experience Kentucky gets, the better it will be. Kentucky has games Friday, Sunday and Wednesday coming up — all at home.
“As time goes on, it’s only going to make us better. Whether it was a win or loss, just knowing that we’re getting better makes me more comfortable about the team,” he said. “It’s our first time, young team, the first stretch with three games in five days. We’re going to face another one of those coming up. It’s part of the season. You definitely feel a little physical and mental wear-down there. But we’re going to get used to it as the season goes on. I feel like the more we get used to it the better we’re going to get.”
Diallo said the Cats knew they had a lot of doubters going into the Kansas game — the same point Kevin Knox made after the game.
“I think we went out there and showed people that we’re a team that can compete with any team in the country. That’s just the nature of it. Guys played alright. I feel like we didn’t play our great game. We played alright and that’s pretty much it,” he said. “I think I’ve played alright. Of course, I got a few things to work on. I just gotta tighten up some little things: less turnovers, rebounding more and just being a little more consistent.”