After a 78-77 loss to South Carolina on Saturday, Kentucky Coach Billy Gillispie drew a metaphorical line in the sand.
"Unless we start finding some toughness somewhere and defensive rebound, we're going to be in for a long rest of the (Southeastern) conference," he said. "Because we're getting whipped in the lane big time."
South Carolina grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and converted them into a 21-7 advantage in second-chance points.
"Eighteen offensive rebounds and that's going to be the key factor in the game," Gillispie said. "That doesn't sit very well with me."
The UK coach then hit his players with the ultimate athletic insult: He called them soft.
"I give them all the credit because they took it to us," Gillispie said of South Carolina. "That's obviously what everybody should do and most every team is doing. We're playing real soft. They should take it to us. We didn't respond competitively."
Patrick Patterson, who scored a team-high 28 points, objected to the label of soft.
"I know we're not a soft team," he said. "I know Jodie (Meeks) is not soft. Perry (Stevenson) is not soft. None of these players on the team are soft. ... We are a tough team and we are a physical team. But we didn't play like that."
Patterson suggested UK's ability to block shots (the Cats ranked second nationally with an average of 7.5 per game) created offensive rebound chances for opponents.
"When Perry (Stevenson) and I would help up and try to block shots, our man would sneak up and grab the rebound and put in it," he said.
When asked how he hoped to instill toughness in the team, Gillispie practically spit out, "Hard work."
Patterson knew what that meant.
"Intense practice tomorrow," he said. "Hard practice. Very physical practice. Probably a rather long practice. Just try to kill us."
Besides a lack of toughness, Gillispie also lamented poor decision-making.
"Not carrying out instruction," the UK coach said. "We're supposed to drive the basketball because that's what they allow you to do."
South Carolina's aggressive, over-playing defense invites drives.
"That opens up drives from the wing," Gillispie said. "They dared us to do that and we would not take advantage of what they were giving us.
"They played smarter than we did."
'Major step backward'
Gillispie called the losses to Ole Miss and South Carolina "two major steps backward."
Patterson acknowledged his surprise that the Cats did not take out the loss at Ole Miss on South Carolina.
"I'm very surprised, especially after the Ole Miss loss, we didn't bounce back," he said. "We just didn't want it as badly as (South Carolina) did. They came in here. They felt they could beat us on our home court. And they did."
Patterson all but promised a different response when Kentucky plays Mississippi State on Tuesday.
"We most definitely will stride off this," he said, "and we will respond."
Life with Liggins
In continuing his never-boring freshman season, DeAndre Liggins hit a long three-pointer at the buzzer to give UK a 37-36 lead. He had made only seven of 40 three-point shots going into the game.
The Cats shot only eight three-pointers, 20 fewer than at Ole Miss on Tuesday and the lowest total since taking five against West Virginia on Nov. 29.
Then Liggins got benched with 6:32 to go after he launched an ill-advised three-point attempt in transition with South Carolina leading 66-64.
Although Gillispie stressed offensive patience, Liggins also drove for shots without first moving the ball.
"He played fine till the one shot," Gillispie said. "He was told to drive it today because they were taking away ball reversal."
Technical for Gillispie
Gillispie picked up a technical foul in the first half. Referee Pat Adams called a foul on Perry Stevenson when replays clearly showed Mike Holmes walked trying to score in the low post.
After the replay, Adams appeared to tell UK fans sitting at courtside either "I missed it" or "I messed up."
Either description applied, Patterson said.
"He walked," the UK big man said of Holmes. "Everybody knew he walked. He knew he walked. The referee, he didn't see it, I guess."