Photo by Keyli Chisesi | Go Big Blue Country
Teammates and Coaches Praise Hagans Defensive Effort in 80-72 Victory
CHICAGO, Il – The Kentucky Wildcats delivered an early Christmas present for the Big Blue Nation, defeating No. 9 North Carolina, 80-72 at the CBS Sports Classic in Chicago Saturday evening.
Kentucky had four players reach double figures but it was freshman guard Ashton Hagans that set the tone for Kentucky before they stepped onto the court. Hagans was the voice heard in the tunnel before the game saying, “the aggressor wins.” That statement proved true, as No. 2 on the court has established himself to be Kentucky’s No. 1 point guard.
“I’m putting the ball in his hands and he’s making the right plays,” said John Calipari. ” It was a small tweak that we made about a week ago and when I watched it, I said we got this now.”
The 6-foot-3 guard from Cartersville, GA., does all the things that can make this team great. His biggest impact is on the defensive end of the floor, where he recorded seven steals, but Kentucky’s offense clicks when he is in attack mode.
In addition to his seven steals, Hagans tallied 7 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists.
“The scouting report said he was a really good on-ball defender,” said North Carolina coach Roy Williams. “I saw him in high school. I really liked him in high school and then he reclassified. He’s a very gifted young man but he works really hard, too.”
Roy Williams wasn’t the only one heaping praise on the young point guard. His teammate, Tyler Herro, understands the impact he makes on the defensive end of the floor.
“When Ashton is doing that, just being hectic on defense, we’re going to be tough to beat,” said Herro. “He played great tonight and we expect that from him every night.”
When Kentucky lost the season opener to Duke they were a team still searching to find an identity. Almost two months later that identify is beginning to surface. Kentucky will win games with effort on the defensive end and the glass, both keys to the first signature win of the season on Saturday.
The Tar Heels entered the game leading the country in rebounding. Kentucky finished with a 43-33 advantage on the glass.
Next up for Kentucky is the annual Bluegrass battle with Louisville. The Wildcats will look to close 2018 with another big victory. Tip-off is scheduled for 2 p.m. ET. on ESPN 2 next Saturday.