By LARRY VAUGHT
Ashton Hagans was sitting on the bench with an ice pack on his injured thigh late in the game when vaughtsviews.com photographer heard Kentucky coach John Calipari asked him, “Can you go in?”
LSU was cutting into UK’s 15-point lead and Calipari knew his team needed its point guard — maybe as much defensively as offensively. Hagans had tried to play after first taking a knee to his thigh with 6:53 to play but couldn’t do and he couldn’t this time either.
After UK held on to win 79-76 and take control of the Southeastern Conference race, Calipari said during his press conference he didn’t ask about Hagans’ thigh contusion and on his postgame radio show told Tom Leach he didn’t know anything.
“”But I did tell the team, ‘Boy, we played great without Ashton.’ That’ll get him back fast,” the UK coach joked.
Hagans had 11 points and four assists despite missing the final 6:53.
Teammate Immanuel Quickley, who led UK with 21 points, knows the team needs Hagans. Kentucky returns to action Saturday when it hosts Florida.
“If he doesn’t play (next game), that’s a big piece we’ll be missing obviously. He’s the defensive player of the year in the SEC and I don’t think I would be excited about anything with Ashton being (out),” Quickley said.
“We need Ashton and he’s a big part of what we do offensively and defensively. He’s really a big part of what we do and we need him.”