Just got off a teleconference with Darrin Horn. His voice was a bit hoarse by the end, but here are some highlights.
- He said he got “a few hours” of sleep before hitting the recruiting trail today. And by the way, what a good day to do so.
“Obviously it makes a big difference when you walk in the gym, you’ve got South Carolina across your chest and you just beat the No. 1 team in the country. I just think it carries a little bit more weight of course,” Horn said. “But I think in the big picture in things in the long term it’s a huge program win, to be able to say you want to compete against the best in the country (and) build a national program is one thing. But to go out and beat the No. 1 team in the country, It’s really big in every way for us.”
The next step becomes refocusing the players. Wednesday is an NCAA-mandated day off, and then the team returns to practice Thursday.
“We’ll do our best to keep them focused on the same things that helped us play well for the last five halves, trying to control what we can control, try and do what we do, and not get too high or too low,” Horn said. “I think maybe one of the most impressive thing about what our kids did last night was it happened following just a brutal, gut-wrenching loss on the road at Florida on Saturday. I think that speaks a lot to the character of our kids.”
Horn said he got the sense Sunday night that the players were in the right frame of mind.
“We met Sunday night and had a brief on-court practice. I thought when we met with them the first time that they had a presence and a look in their eye that they knew that they did what I told them: We took a step on Saturday, even though we lost the game. The way we played, the way we competed and the way we handled Florida’s runs, putting ourselves in a position to win and losing on a great play by Florida and a great shot by (Chandler) Parsons, we felt like we took a step win or lose. And I think our guys knew that, and were excited about the opportunity to take an even bigger step last night.”
As for one-court performances, Horn praised the contributions of Johndre Jefferson, Austin Steed, Stephen Spinella, Brandis Raley-Ross you get the picture. Downey had the help he needed.
Horn also discussed Downey’s impact off the court.
“We don’t have the one go-to guy in terms of vocal leadership or that. But when your best player is your hardest worker and comes focused every day there’s no question that impacts your team, especially when you’re playing a lot of young guys.”
He laughed and answered “no” when asked if was happy to be 3-0 against Kentucky.
“Just a big program win in the big picture of things, and just to get back on track. To get back to .500 in league play with a chance now hopefully to move forward and build on it,” Horn said.
The home-court atmosphere once again earned Horn’s undying praise.
“I think we’re building one of the best homecourt advantages in the league,” Horn said. “And it’s a credit once again to our student fans and to our fans as a whole that we’re making Colonial Life Arena a tough place to play.”
(Horn, perhaps not wanting a tax audit, didn’t seize the opportunity to point out President Obama’s remark earlier on Tuesday.)
After the game, Downey said “nobody gave us a chance.” Horn indicated that while that wasn’t the big mantra going in, they did use the fact that nationally, No. 1 Kentucky’s next big game seemed to be Saturday against Vanderbilt — forgetting Tuesday night.
“We mentioned it. It’s impossible not to notice that people actually skipped over the fact that Kentucky even had a game Tuesday,” Horn said.