By LARRY VAUGHT
Freshman point guard Ashton Hagans had three turnovers for Kentucky against Auburn Saturday. However, Auburn coach Bruce Pearl gave Hagans a large share of credit for UK’s 82-80 victory because of the way he ran the UK offense against a defense used to forcing more turnovers.
“They took care of the ball. They only turned it over 13 times, and I thought that was a factor. Ashton Hagan is a terrific point guard. He’s doing what he does for teams. He runs teams,” Pearl said.
“Bryce Brown is terrific on-ball defender and we only turned Ashton three times. We typically turn guards over a little bit more than that. So I thought he did a great job kind of keeping them calm and getting the ball to the right guys at the right time.”
That’s what Hagans has been doing and a big reason UK has won its last four games and seven of the last eight — the only loss was to start SEC play at Alabama. But UK has won at Georgia and Auburn in its last two games and Pearl said there’s no doubt UK is better than last year.
“I think they’re playing with more of a purpose. They value possessions more. They get good looks every time down. They’ve got a good inside-outside game,” Pearl said.
“I know Ashton Hagans. I know Keldon Johnson. I know those kids pretty well. I know EJ Montgomery. We recruited him hard. They’ve got real character. There’s some character there. There’s a real will to win there. They would rather win and score less than maybe just put up their numbers. Those kids are built — they’re built, really, like champions.”