Only minutes earlier, they had watched their teammate and friend, Janee Thompson, being taken out of South Carolina's Colonial Life Arena on a stretcher, her left leg mangled and her season over.
Amidst the swirling emotion last Sunday in the Kentucky locker room after the Wildcats lost to No. 1 South Carolina and, far more painfully, lost their point guard to a broken leg, Makayla Epps and Lin nae Harper made a pact.
The two sophomore guards, 2013 McDonald's All-Americans, pledged that they would take the lead in making sure a promising UK women's basketball campaign did not end with Thompson's junior season.
"We discussed that at South Carolina with tears in our eyes," Epps said. "We both knew, as soon as they took Janee off on that stretcher, it was on. We both knew mentally, 'We just have to step up.'"
On Thursday, in UK's first game since losing Thompson, Epps and Harper stepped up like champs.
With Epps and Harper leading the way, Kentucky (15-3, 4-1 SEC) gutted out a 62-56 win over a game Florida team (9-9, 1-4) that had beaten the Wildcats twice last season.
Epps, the former Marion County star, filled in ably for Thompson at the point. She finished with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals. Kentucky's 2013 Miss Basketball scored 14 of her 20 points in the second half. She iced UK's 15th victory in 18 games with four clutch free throws in the final 32.7 seconds.
"We wouldn't have won without her," Kentucky Coach Matthew Mitchell said. "I really believe this: Makayla can be one of the best point guards in this conference. I think she can be one of the best point guards in the country."
Harper, who played with Thompson at Chicago's Whitney Young High School, was every bit as impressive as her classmate.
Wearing Thompson's shorts as a form of tribute to the friend she has known since fifth grade, Harper came within shouting distance of a triple-double: 14 points, nine rebounds, six steals.
In the first half, when UK struggled mightily on offense (12-of-32 field-goal shooting) as it adjusted to life without its point guard, Harper's steals led to three Kentucky baskets.
"I think she kept us in it in the first half when we were really laboring to score," Mitchell said. "Harp's defense really steadied us. Last year, she didn't get on the floor because of her defense. Now, you've got her out there playing the whole game, and she's really on a torrid steals pace."
Over the course of a basketball season, the "gut checks" a team faces can take many forms.
On Thursday night, Kentucky was faced with an array of challenges.
When Mitchell made his normal pre-game entrance to the strains of Montgomery Gentry's Our Town, he brought a guest with him.
It was Thompson, walking out on crutches after the surgery to repair her broken left fibula. A Memorial Coliseum crowd of 5,134 stood and roared at the sight of the little guard.
After four days filled with a vortex of emotions, Mitchell acknowledged that he wasn't sure before the game what mental state his team would carry into its meeting with Florida.
"I think I'm usually pretty connected to them," Mitchell said of his players. "But it's been a hard couple of days, a hard couple of days. To be honest, I was concerned before the game, I really was. I just didn't sense much pop in the room. So that's all the more reason I'm proud of our players for coming out and getting a win when we've been through so much."
As any SEC football coach would tell you, the middle of league play is not when you want to lose your quarterback.
For UK Hoops, alas, that is the situation.
Epps is a very different player than the 5-6 Thompson. It figures to take some time for Kentucky to adjust to its new lead guard. It also figures to take time for Epps to adjust to playing full-time point guard in college.
"She just needs reps," Mitchell said. "Our team will improve as she improves at her position."
On a team with quality seniors in Jennifer O'Neill, Bria Goss and Azia Bishop, it's too much to say that Kentucky has become Harper and Epps' team.
But the two sophomore guards know they now have to lead.
"We're not freshman anymore," Epps said. "We know it's time for us to step up."
In UK's first outing with Thompson, that mission was accomplished.