Throw out the ifs and buts and cut to the chase, said Wake Forest guard Broderick Hicks, and the wrong team won.
The scoreboard may have read Kansas 83, Wake Forest 76 on Tuesday night in Allen Fieldhouse, but Hicks couldn't believe it.
"Bottom line," said Hicks, a 6-foot-1 senior point guard, "is we played one of the best teams in the country in one of the best places to play in the country, and we should have won. I believe in my heart we should have won."
Certainly it's difficult to stomach a loss when the winning team leaves opening after opening by making only half of its 40 free-throw attempts.
"They gave us chances," senior forward Darius Songaila said. "We had some shots, but we have to get rebounds and hit our shots."
Songaila, the Demon Deacons' leading scorer at 17.2 points per game, settled for 10 points Tuesday night while playing just 22 minutes because of foul trouble.
Josh Howard, the Deacons' second-leading scorer at 13.8, also had a off night, partially because of foul trouble. Howard settled for nine points in 23 minutes.
First-year coach Skip Prosser wasn't about to blame the defeat on sub-par nights by Songaila and Howard, however.
"It's a team game and we have lots of guys on scholarship," Prosser said. "If two guys don't play well, someone has to take up the slack."
The only non-starters who scored were Steve Lepore (12 points) and Vytas Danelius (eight points). The other three bench players were 0-for-6 from the field.
"Part of our offensive inabilities," Prosser said, "were due to their excellent defense. We couldn't put enough pressure on them. We couldn't climb that precipice."
Once the No. 23-ranked Demons fell behind by double-digits, they were never able to cut the deficit to less than four points.
"They gave us opportunities," Prosser said, "and we weren't able to climb back into it."
Wake Forest's senior-laden squad seemed unintimidated by the decibel-busting atmosphere of Allen Fieldhouse, and Prosser stressed it wasn't the venerable home of the Jayhawks that won this one.
"What makes it such a tough place to play," he said, "is Kansas."
KU's fans came hoping the Jayhawks would destroy the Deacons like the Deacons had destroyed Kansas last season in Winston-Salem, N.C. But there would be no tit-for-tat payback for last year's 83-54 thumping.
"We knew they'd be excited about playing us," senior forward Antwan Scott said. "We knew that. We just had to match their intensity."
That didn't happen at least not early as KU raced to a 41-30 halftime lead.
"Our intensity in the second half if we'd started out like that, it would have been different," Scott said.
In the big picture, an early December loss usually means little in a season that doesn't end until March, and Prosser knows Tuesday night's defeat hardly ruined Wake's season.
"We're disappointed we lost," Prosser said, "but last year we win by 30 and got knocked out of the NCAAs, and Kansas loses by 30 and reaches the Sweet 16."