By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
Since conference play began, Kentucky has been involved in close games. Four of the team’s five contests have been determined by nine points, while the past two games — a loss at South Carolina and a win over Arkansas — were by a combined margin of 10 points.
Assistant coach Tony Barbee said the close games are a “good thing” because this is a competitive sport.
“You’re fortunate when you can blow somebody out, but that’s not going to happen at the level that we’re playing at in this conference,” he said. “One of the best in the country, if not the best. You’re going to have games that go down to the wire and then, in the season when there’s a lot of parity all across the country and there’s not a lot of separation from what might be the top and the bottom, you’re going to have a lot of close games.
“It’s good that we’re getting this experience, and we got quite a bit of it in the nonconference schedule. We’ve learned and we’ve grown from it. Our young guys are a little more comfortable in those situations where it is a nip-and-tuck game at this level.”
That competitive spirit, Barbee says, comes from a simple “will to win” that Kentucky will need again tonight when it hosts Georgia.
“We’ve got a group that hates to lose, and it doesn’t mean you’re going to win every game,” Barbee said. “But these guys are going to battle, scrap, and fight. And if you lose a game, it’s only because we ran out of time, not because we gave up or stopped trying. That makes a special group when you’ve got talented guys like we do that care about winning and losing.”
It all starts with sophomore point guard Ashton Hagans.
“My parents, they always were fighters,” he said. “I guess that’s how I’m riding.”
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Gametracker: Georgia at Kentucky, 7 p.m., Tuesday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.