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UK with no time to wallow after overtime loss

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Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points and 13 rebounds in UK's overtime loss to Arkansas on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Willie Cauley-Stein had 16 points and 13 rebounds in UK's overtime loss to Arkansas on Thursday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
As Julius Randle, Alex Poythress and Willie Cauley-Stein came for interviews following an overtime loss to Arkansas, the mood was understandably somber.

They walked down the hallway from their locker room slowly, sank in their chairs and spoke in hushed tones.

A day removed from talking about his team turning a corner with a raucous celebration of a win over LSU, Randle fielded questions about whether he saw the 71-67 defeat coming.

"I never go into the game thinking we're not going to put the effort out that we should and do the little things," Randle said. "We just didn't tonight."

John Calipari, meanwhile, ran down the reasons for the defeat in his own postgame press conference.

"They beat us to loose balls. We missed 10 one foot shots. We missed all free throws that mattered." Calipari said, referencing UK's 12-of-22 free-throw shooting to Arkansas' perfect 16-for-16 performance.  "We have a lead late, we're leaving timeouts, not executing."

After UK (21-7, 11-4 Southeastern Conference) trailed for all but 2:43 of the first 34 minutes, the Wildcats pulled into a tie at 52-all and eventually a 57-52 lead on the strength of a 14-2 run. But after grabbing that five-point lead, UK shot just 1 of 5 from the field and 1 of 4 from the line.

Arkansas (19-9, 8-7 SEC), eager for the chance to sweep the season series against UK and pick up a resume-building win, took advantage and forced overtime. In the extra period, the Cats' bid for a second straight overtime win in Rupp Arena fell short due to three turnovers and numerous misses around the rim as UK shot 26 of 76 (34.2 percent) for the game.

"We couldn't throw a rock in the ocean, but it happens like sometimes in games," said Randle, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds. "The main thing is -- especially when things like that happen, you can't really get it going -- that's when you have to lock in on defense and come up with 50-50 balls. We didn't do that tonight."

UK had a 47-38 rebounding edge on Thursday night and even won the turnover battle, 20-18, but Arkansas blocked eight shots and contested countless more in the paint to flummox the Cats.

"We took two steps back today," Calipari said.

With just three games left in the regular season, now is not the time for that to happen. Concerning as that may be, it's also the reason why UK has to move on and move on quickly.

"There's no reason to soak in it, just remember the feeling," said Cauley-Stein, who had 16 points and 13 rebounds. "It's getting too close to crunch time. You can't dwell on it and then do the same thing the next game because you're thinking about the last game. Then the next thing you know, you stepped way too far behind and there's no return after that."

That's especially true because of the way UK's schedule sets up in the coming days.

The Cats will get right back to practice on Friday with a game at South Carolina awaiting them on Saturday. After less than 48 hours between games, UK will turn around and face Alabama on Senior Night on Tuesday.

Taxing, yes, but also exactly what the Cats want.

"That's the great thing about basketball, you know, is it's not like football (where) if you lose a game you have to wait a week," Poythress said. "Basketball, you know, you play the next couple of days, so we're just trying to get this out the window. We lost. We know that. There's nothing we can do."

Cauley-Stein, who according to Calipari saved UK from what could have been a "15- or 18-point" loss, agreed.

"You gotta come right back at it, gotta take the medicine tomorrow at practice and then you got a game the next day," Cauley-Stein said. "That's love to me; I wouldn't want it any other way."

In other words, the Cats don't have time to let a sour mood following the loss linger.

"We just gotta stay the course," Randle said. "Adversity's gonna hit anybody. It doesn't matter if you're a basketball player, it doesn't matter who you are. In life, adversity's going to hit you. It's definitely hit us this year, but if we're staying the course, keep being strong and don't let it waver you I think we'll be fine."

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