VAUGHT: Crawford won't relax now

Joe Crawford can now admit that he might have been overwhelmed at times by the pressure of Kentucky basketball during his first two years with the Wildcats. "I always knew Kentucky basketball was huge, but you don't really know until you play for the team how much pressure is on you and how fans expect you to win every game," Crawford said.

Joe Crawford can now admit that he might have been overwhelmed at times by the pressure of Kentucky basketball during his first two years with the Wildcats.

"I always knew Kentucky basketball was huge, but you don't really know until you play for the team how much pressure is on you and how fans expect you to win every game," Crawford said. "They just want championships and anything short of that is not enough for most fans."

Knowing that, last year must have seemed like the end of the world to Crawford when UK lost 13 games, failed to win the conference regular season or tournament championship, and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

"It was a tough time. It was something we did not want to go through again. It was a tough summer. We worked hard, which is what I think helped prepare us for this year," Crawford said. "But last year is why we also know that we can't relax now."

Kentucky takes an 11-game win streak into Saturday's game against Vanderbilt. The Cats are 4-0 in SEC play and Crawford has had three 20-point games against SEC opponents.

Not only is Crawford shooting better and attacking the basket more, he's also more relaxed. He thinks a smaller playing rotation this season has helped every player be more productive.

"It gives us more confidence. You get in a game and you gain more experience and stay ready to play," Crawford said. "Depending on what mistake you make, you can still have to come out. If you make mistakes that he (coach Tubby Smith) can look over, you can stay out there and play longer.

"That's different from my first two years here, but I think it just comes with trust. We are older now and he believes more in us. He knows we have bought into the program now."

And Crawford promises he'll never complain about playing too many minutes even though Smith has worried about that at times this year.

"No, that does not bother me," Crawford said of his increased playing time this year. "Sometimes it takes a toll on me if I play a lot of minutes in a row, but I am glad to play all that I can. I have been blessed this year to play this much and I appreciate it. Hopefully my play shows that."


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