Kentucky coach John Calipari challenges his players to get tough and battle in SEC

Tennessee ran Kentucky off the floor en route to a 76-65 win Saturday in Knoxville.

Rick Barnes' team won the battle on the boards, forced the Wildcats into 16 turnovers, and out-efforted their young opponent down the stretch to secure their first SEC win of the season. It was UK's worst outing of the season all the way around.

Reflecting upon the game Monday on the SEC conference call, Kentucky coach John Calipari called it for what it was and tipped his hat to Tennessee for taking it to them.

"Tennessee just threw us around," Calipari said via ESPN. "First of all, you show it on tape so they can accept it happened."

The Wildcats' 12-3 record is solid on paper, but flawed off it. This hasn't been a vintage Calipari-coached team thus far; his young unit has struggled to find an identity early on, and so long as they continue playing like they did Saturday, there may be a built-in ceiling for how high this team may rise.

"In most cases, in this sport, for guys to advance in this sport, you gotta fight," Calipari said. "If you don't fight, you're not making it because it's too competitive. That is all mentality. Mental toughness, physical toughness, and when you've got a bunch of young guys, that's the last piece. It becomes, 'Will you battle?'"

Kentucky has a chance to prove mettle on Tuesday evening as it welcomes Texas A&M into Lexington, Kentucky seeking a bounce-back performance.

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