DURHAM, N.C. — The University of Kentucky bench got a technical in the final seconds of the 54-48 loss at Duke for arguing with officials, but Coach Matthew Mitchell wasn't ready to blame the three-person crew for Kentucky's defeat.
"The officiating was more than good enough for Kentucky to win tonight, and we didn't get the job done," he said.
It appeared Mitchell picked up the technical for arguing what he perceived to be a non-call on Keyla Snowden's potential game-tying three-pointer.
He smiled when asked about it but said he didn't want to expound any more on his feelings about the calls or non-calls.
"I don't have any comment on that," he said. "If anyone was watching, I'll let you make your decision on how I felt."
But the coach, who regularly tells his team not to make excuses after a loss, practiced what he preaches.
He pointed to the myriad reasons UK wasn't able to upset the third-ranked Devils.
"The officiating had nothing to do with us missing nine free throws," Mitchell said. "The officiating had nothing to do with us not competing for 20 minutes on the boards. The officiating had nothing to do with us not being tough down the last minute when we had the lead and all we needed was a little toughness right there."
The statistic was so outlandish it made you do a double take at halftime.
UK trailed Duke 31-22, but it could have been by much, much more if the rebounding stat had been an indicator.
At the break, the Devils had outrebounded Kentucky 31-10, including getting 16 offensive rebounds to just one for the Cats, which had been outrebounding opponents 4.5 boards a game.
"The rebounding stats were embarrassing at the half," Mitchell said. "I've never been a part of a game like that. I've never seen that kind of rebounding margin ever at halftime."
The final rebounding margin was 52-36 in Duke's favor and 27 offensive boards to eight for the Cats, but the Devils managed to get only five second-chance points in the second half and 13 for the game.
That stat had Duke Coach Joanne P. McCallie shaking her head.
"Twenty-seven offensive rebounds and pretty much no put backs," she said. "Wow."
Kentucky doesn't have long to focus on the could'ves, should'ves or would'ves of its loss at Duke. The Cats have another road game, at No. 25 Arkansas, on Thursday.
Senior forward Victoria Dunlap said the team learned some things about itself even in the loss.
"There's a lot of positive things we can take from this," she said. "We fought until the end. We didn't give up at all. We showed we're able to play with anyone in the country."