Let’s start this off by saying, Ashton Hagans is a leader on this team. Not in points but as a court general and defensive machine. He also leads the SEC in assists per game and is second in the conference in steals per game. He quality as a player can’t be measured by looking at a boxscore. Now, let’s get into the events that led to the Kentucky meltdown against the Vols last night.
Things got really sloppy in the second half for the Wildcats and at 10:01 Nick Richards failed to secure a rebound that ended up bouncing off his foot and out of bounds. After unsuccessful offensive possessions by both teams Tennessee gets a ticky-tack foul call on EJ Montgomery and as they were subbing players during the foul shots Maxey comes into the game. You can see Maxey ask the coaches who he is going in for and then you can see Ashton tell Johnny to come out and direct him to the bench. At 8:45 Nick gets a rebound and then let’s a Tennessee player smack it out of his hands. Hagans body language shows his frustration as he looks at Nick and throws his hands up. He doesn’t even put much pressure on the guy as everyone is coming back for the Vols possession. They eventually throw the ball away and then this happens:
On the ensuing possession for Kentucky, Hagans has the ball at the top of the key and shows displeasure with his teammates about where they’re supposed to be. He ends up taking his man one-on-one and Richards opens up for a nice dunk. On the next offensive possession Hagans ends up driving in again into a double team and turning the ball over. To be fair a foul probably could’ve been called. Tennessee runs down the floor and Richards trails behind planning to guard the last Vol down the floor. Sestina gets in a two on one situation and Tennessee gets an easy basket plus a foul. Quickley is seen get into Richards for not hustling back before the ball even goes through the hoop. Faulkerson hits the freethrow to make it a two point game. The next offensive possession for Tennessee ended with Keion Brooks going for a double team on Faulkerson and leaving Hagans to guard two on the perimeter, they hit the three and go up one. Kentucky takes the ball down the floor and after the normal set of hand offs, Maxey drove into the lane and gets the ball taken from him. Again a foul probably could’ve been called. Tennessee uses the fast break to make a euro step layup and go up 3. After the timeout Hagans has his great drive and made layup and a steal that leads to a foul. He make one of the two and ties it up. At 3:25 Cal and Hagans talk during free throws calmly about what needs to happen on the floor. Down two Hagans get the ball wide open for three and misses, EJ tracks it down and tries to save it but was out of bounds before he could flip it up to Hagans. Again, a foul could’ve been called here but it wasn’t. Tennessee hits a shot to go up four and Hagans ends up with a backcourt call after fighting through some tough picks in which he seems to flail a lot going through them. Richards ends up missing another rebound and Hagans seemed to encourage him to hurry to get the ball in and get down the floor as time was running low. Hagans comes down the floor and follows his own miss to tip it in. Down 4 with around 40 seconds left Ashton tries to lob it to Nick and Richards cannot complete the play and it leads to a turnover and essentially the end of the game.
I’m not sure when this happened but it doesn’t seem to me like Hagans checked out:
I just think Tennessee was just tougher down the stretch and the focus wasn’t there by Nick and most of the team to be honest. Hagans had moments of bad body language and a momentary lack of effort but it wasn’t the big picture problem in my opinion. That’s just my thoughts and I’d love to hear what your thoughts are on the situation.