"It just felt good to finally earn a starting spot and more playing time," Crawford, a two-year starter under former coach Tubby Smith, said. "You battle every day in practice to earn that time. Now I am finally making some progress."
He hopes that will continue on Tuesday night when Kentucky hosts Stony Brook to tune up for Saturday's nationally televised game against No. 1 North Carolina.
"Coach Gillispie puts us in a position where we all have to prove ourselves to him. That's the way you get better and show that you're a capable player," Crawford, who scored 17 of UK's first 32 points, said. "I think I played better defense (against Texas Southern). But I still have a ways to go to learn all of coach Gillispie's principles."
'It was all in the flow of the game'
Crawford insisted he wasn't try to do anything extraordinary offensively to make sure he would stay in the starting lineup for Tuesday's game.
"I didn't want to force anything," Crawford said. "I was just knocking down shots during our offense. It was all in the flow of the game, which is the way it is supposed to be."
Crawford says he has not taken Gillispie's criticism of his play personally.
"He never lets up. He pushes everybody to the maximum. He's not just on me, he's on everyone in a different way. It's tough. You just have to be mentally stronger and be willing to change," Crawford said. "You have to develop a killer instinct and compete every play."
Crawford did that midway of the second half with UK leading by 37 points when he took a charge.
Gillispie noted that Crawford is playing better and practicing better. He at first downplayed the significance of taking the charge, but then did praise Crawford for that play.
"I am proud of Joe. He sacrificed his body for the good of the team," the Kentucky coach said.
Senior teammate Ramel Bradley was also impressed with sacrifice.
"It just shows the other guys that we're on board with this whole thing," Bradley said. "We're just trying to set an example for everybody else on the team."