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It was apparent during much of this season that John Calipari’s Kentucky squad was a young outfit with a lot of things to learn before taking the next step where Wildcat teams usually reside.
Is handling itself after a big loss one of them? Several Kansas State players said Kentucky didn’t shake hands as it left the court following Thursday’s 61-58 loss in the Sweet 16.
That didn’t sit well with the Wildcats of Manhattan, Kan. after the game, but Calipari said it was a simple matter of circumstances as K-State was wildly celebrating its berth in the Elite Eight.
Others at Phillips Arena said this was less the Bad Boy Pistons storming off after finally being beaten by Jordan’s Bulls and more something close to what Calipari described as K-State rushed to celebrate with purple-clad supporters in the stands.
What’s more, Kentucky players and staff were shown on television shaking the hands of K-State coaches including K-State head coach Bruce Weber.
But K-State players were still upset over the perceived snub as they spoke in the locker room.
“That’s not the sportsmanship you like to see, but that’s them,” Kansas State forward Levi Stockard told reporters in Atlanta. “They just walked off the court. I don’t know what it was. I don’t know.”
Another K-State player, Amaad Wainright, said he was looking forward to shaking the hand of a Hall of Fame coach, but said Calipari was nowhere to be found.
“It’s sorry … they know what they did,” Wainright said.
Calipari was pressed on the issue in his postgame media conference and this is what he said:
“Well, I went down to shake their hands, too, and they were turned and celebrating so that I walked off,” Calipari said according to the postgame transcript. “I had no disrespect for anything, just that they were celebrating and I was happy for them. I walked off, too. But I went down, I shook all the coaches’ hands, I went down to shake their hands — which I understood. They’re in an Elite Eight game now, a chance to go to the Final Four.”
“My team is not like that, neither is our program. There’s no disrespect in any way. They beat us. They deserved to win the game.”
Knowing how crazy and unrestrained a postgame celebration can be, we tend to side a little more with Kentucky on this one. If K-State players cared that much about the handshakes, they should have been in line behind their coach before celebrating with their own fans.
More Sweet 16 coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Loyola’s Cinderella run continues with dramatic win over Nevada
• Did Loyola get away with a travel on crucial play?
• Michigan looks unbeatable as it advances to Elite 8
• Sister Jean: ‘I don’t care that you broke my bracket’