But their demeanor, while one of disappointment, began to change even before they left Thompson-Boling Arena to head back to Oxford.
As they answered question after question from reporters, and there was a large group of them there doing the asking, the Rebel players appeared to be a collective group that knew this was nothing to dwell on. There are many more important nights ahead.
So they looked forward – to LSU and the game in Oxford Saturday at 5 p.m.
"We just have to take this loss and move on," said sophomore guard Eniel Polynice, who had 20 points, eight rebounds, and four assists in the Rebels' 85-83 loss to the Volunteers in Knoxville Wednesday night.
Polynice said that while the country may have learned more about the Rebels in this one, the players also learned more about themselves.
"We have to come out with more intensity, playing harder and more aggressively," he said. "We played hard but at the end it was almost like they wanted it more than we did. We have to be able to close a game out."
The Rebels have actually done that quite well this season on their way to a 13-0 record prior to their matchup with the Vols. But with an 83-79 lead and 2:22 to go, UT outscored them 6-0 for the victory. It wasn't the outcome they'd hoped for.
"We knew it would be tough on the road. It always is in the SEC," said senior center Dwayne Curtis with 15 points and 13 rebounds on the night. "Close games like this on the road and against one of the top teams in the nation, it's tough to take a loss like this."
But they have taken it and moved on. Only one league game has been played and 15 more remain. The focus is now clearly on LSU, and Polynice said winning this one is what it's all about now.
"Games happen. There's not anything we can do," he said of the opening league setback at Tennessee, who improved to 13-1. "We can't look back. We have to look to the future. We just want to win games."
The immediate future is the contest with the Tigers late on Saturday afternoon. LSU, 7-8 overall, lost to Mississippi State 61-39 in Baton Rouge in its SEC opener Wednesday night.
Coach John Brady's Tigers have been decimated by injuries so far this year. He said on the SEC teleconference Thursday that his team would likely have only seven or eight players available for the game at Ole Miss.
"We've been limited in our numbers in our practices," he said. "There's no forgiveness in this league. We've got to bounce back mentally and get it done. Going up to Ole Miss won't be easy. They're playing well and shooting it extremely well. That's one of the most difficult buildings in this league when there are a lot of people in it. And you know there will be a lot of people in it for this one. We just have to stay with it and move on from here."
Rebels look to LSU as SEC race moves on
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