By LARRY VAUGHT
After urging sophomore center Nick Richards to back up the confident talk he had Friday before Kentucky played Wofford, UK coach John Calipari was happy with how Richards played in Saturday’s 62-56 win.
Richards had three points, three rebounds and one blocked shot in 25 minutes — and stayed out of foul trouble. He also did not have a turnover.
“I was happy for Nick. Every player you have, you know how hard they’re working. You know what a good person they are, so you want them to do well, but you can’t do it for them, and you can wish all you want, but at the end of the day, they’ve got to go in and perform,” Calipari said.
“I can’t build their confidence. They have to build their own confidence. Well, you take them out. Well, if they’re not playing hard and they’re not playing with great energy, then yeah, I will take them out. It’s not about missed shots. You’re going to have some turnovers, but if you’re not competing, if you don’t come up — .”
Calipari said he had to do that Saturday when freshman EJ Montgomery failed to get a key defensive rebound.
“That could have cost us the game. He let the guy run — you’re out. Well, you take me out. I’m trying to win the game. Get that ball, and we win this game. So there’s things like that that I’m not going to budge on,” Calipari said.
The coach also had high praise for freshman point guard Ashton Hagans. He had 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting from the field and 4-for-5 at the line along with five rebounds, four assists (all in the first half) and one steal that led to a layup.
“I thought Ashton just has a will to win, and I come back, you see him make every free throw, and then you say to yourself, he should probably shoot perimeter shots better. Again, it’s mental. Get in the gym more, build your own confidence, make a couple in the game, which he has this year,” Caliipari said.
“Last couple (games) he’s not made shots. He’s got to get in this week and get ready for this weekend.”