OXFORD, Miss. — When asked why usually sure-handed Kentucky committed a season-high 18 turnovers, Mississippi guard Chris Warren cut to the heart of his team's 71-69 victory Tuesday night.
"We just played hard this game," he said. "We knew how big this game was and how big this opportunity was. And we took advantage of it."
Moments earlier, UK Coach John Calipari lamented how his team got outhustled. Given the Cats' six-man rotation and lack of experience, the UK coach said his team can't afford to also come up short in hustle and desire.
"We're not four points better or worse than anybody," Calipari said. "We've got to want it worse than the other team. If we do that, we're a pretty good team. We're a step ahead.
"If (opponents) want it worse, they're more physical, and they're grabbing (loose balls) and we're not fighting, then we're what you saw today."
Freshman forward Terrence Jones spoke of Kentucky's need to play to its identity.
When asked what that identity was, Jones said, "Energy. Defense. Scrappy. Making three off the dribble-drive. Pressuring the ball."
Cal wants more
Although Jones posted his seventh double-double with 22 points and 12 rebounds, plus equaled a career-high of four blocks, it wasn't enough to satisfy Calipari.
Jones was especially effective down the stretch, scoring nine of his points in the final 5:30.
"I wish Terrence played that way the whole game," the UK coach said. "But he just doesn't have that mind-set."
When asked how he might ignite more consistent effort from Jones, Calipari said in a soft voice, "He's got to do it himself. Nothing I can do.
"I told him at one point, I'm taking you out if you don't run the court. By running, he's ahead of the action. Instead of catching (the ball) and five guys are on him, he's ahead of the action, and it's one on one."
Gottfried salutes Cal
Before Kentucky played at Ole Miss, ESPN commentator Mark Gottfried saluted how Calipari instantly reloaded this season.
UK lost a record five players to the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft last June.
"It would take most programs two or three years to recover," Gottfried said. "Even elite, tradition-rich programs, if they were to lose what (Calipari) lost, it's a two- or three-year endeavor."
Kentucky took a 16-4 record and No. 10 ranking into the game. "Remarkable," Gottfried said.
Even more remarkable because UK is playing with a six-man rotation, the former Alabama coach said. Three of those players are freshmen.
The veterans — Josh Harrellson, Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins — did not carry sterling credentials into this season.
"Basically weren't good enough to play last year at all," Gottfried said. "Now, they're contributing to a top-10 team. Wow!"
Perhaps the game's most memorable play came with about seven minutes left. With UK eating into a one-time 11-point Ole Miss lead, Brandon Knight drove the lane and rose for a one-hand dunk.
But Reginald Buckner also rose and blocked it. Ole Miss took the rejection and sped to a three-point play by Zach Graham that established a 64-55 lead.
"Oh, it was big time," Knight said about the momentum switch. "We were getting closer and closer, and they got that 'and-one.' "
UK dodged a scary moment in the half. With 17:53 left, Doron Lamb leaped for an errant Ole Miss pass and collided with a Rebel on the way down. Lamb hit the floor and immediately grabbed his head. The crowd gasped. But a few moments later, Lamb got up and continued playing.