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Ashton Hagans not afraid of taking big shots, being team leader

Ashton Hagans (Vicky Graff Photo)

By CHANDLER WILCOX, Contributing Writer

Ashton Hagans had a career night in Kentucky’s 82-74 win over Utah Valley State Monday, scoring a career high 26 points off 7-14 shooting from the field and going 12-12 from the free throw line along with adding five rebounds and five assists in 36 minutes of play for the short-handed Cats.

Just like the team as a whole, this was a bounce-back for Hagans, as he only had three points off 1-8 shooting from the field in the loss last week against Evansville, and for him it was keeping himself on track in preparation for the game to help lead the team to victory.

“Just staying focused and staying in the gym, shooting when I get the chance, and attacking the basket while getting my teammates open shots,” Hagans said analyzing his performance tonight.

Not only did he lead the team in scoring, but Hagans feels he is taking on a leadership role emotionally too, as he grows this season.

“Last year coming in I was just trying to figure out my role, but this year just talking to coaches daily and going into their office daily, he’s (Coach Cal) just letting me know this is my team and telling me to be a leader,” the sophomore guard said.

A big part of being in a leadership role is taking the big shots when a game is close, and towards the end of the game, when Utah Valley State guard TJ Washington picked up a technical foul as the Cats led 75-70, UK Coach John Calipari immediately chose Ashton Hagans to shoot the two free throws that were awarded from the foul.

Hagans stepped right up to the line and nailed both shots, and Coach Calipari was confident he would, as to him it was a no-brainer to have Hagans take the shots.

“There was never a doubt in my mind who I was putting on that line for those technicals,” UK Coach John Calipari said.

As the Cats were short-handed with only seven scholarship guys available, Hagans was going to have to play as many as 36 minutes of action like he did tonight, but that didn’t affect him much.

“Not too tired,” Hagans said of himself. “(We) just gotta move on to the next game now.”

Another player that played over 35 minutes was Nick Richards, who had another good game posting 21 points and 10 rebounds, and his performance was helping Hagans get down the lane to easy baskets.

“Cal just kept on telling us to feed him and let him shoot the jumper and he had it, so it just opened it (the lane) for us,” the sophomore guard said.

Hagans had been dealing with a leg injury, but now feels fully healthy and ready to keep playing.

“I’m good,” Hagans said confidently. “I’ll get treatment and get ready to go play the next game.”

Ashton Hagans was crucial to getting Kentucky a victory tonight against the Utah Valley State Wolverines, as he is starting to show a glimpse of how great of a player he can become, while also showing he can be a leader on this team.

5 comments

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  1. That’s all well and good as long as he takes shots he can make and still look for Nick and Nate underneath.

  2. Nice article Chandler. Well written.

  3. Barring injury, Ashton will only get better as the season progresses.
    I hope he just keeps driving the ball in the lane and hitting those foul shots.

  4. Right now, everyone has seemed to have let go of the rope except Ashton. Granted, his outside shot isn’t there, but he is going to the rim and taking and making shots he would not take last year. He still seems to be finding Nick when Nick gets to the right spot and he caught Nate cutting down the lane. This formula alone will not be enough to beat elite teams, but maybe it will get us through the next 3 or 4 games and give everyone else time to get their act together.

  5. This is Hagans team now, he will get much better if he can stay healthy. He is their floor leader by Calipari appointmant. If UK’s outside shots start to fall, it will be hard to beat this team. Also, when this team gets back to full strength, they will be a tough team to face anytime, and any place, as this season unfolds. EJ gives them another big body to deal with at the rim, and I still believe in this young man. This team is talented, they just need experience. I look for Maxey to have other monster games in the days ahead, and a swarming, smothering Calipari defense come March like we all witnessed against MSU despite what “Mr. Spartan” says.

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