It was an early morning wakeup call for Ashton Hagans and the rest of the Kentucky Wildcats.

They had a super-early tipoff with Alabama on Saturday, 11 a.m. CT, and since you don't want to be just

See Mathis/Page C3

rolling out of bed to go play for the No. 14 team in the country, you had to get up and get the blood flowing.

"We had to get up at 7:30, that was a struggle," Hagans said, noting just a second later that he was just kidding. "We had to get up, get some shots up."

Hagans was asked if he had a late Friday night, but that thought got dismissed immediately.

"Oh, nah, nah, nah," Hagans said. "If I had a late night I wouldn't have even been able to get out of bed."

So, Hagans attended the morning shoot-around, which didn't sound like was part of the sophomore's normal game day routine.

"Normally we don't shoot around," UK coach John Calipari said. "I made him shoot around this morning because I wasn't -- there was a gut feeling like if he ain't ready, I see Evansville all over. He didn't play that game."

Calipari wasn't convinced Hagans was ready for the challenge Alabama and its point guard, Kira Lewis, could present.

The UK coach also knew the Wildcats couldn't withstand another game as putrid from Hagans as the non-line he put up against Evansville.

Hagans was 1-of-8 from the floor, took three 3s and didn't make one, had two rebounds, four fouls, four turnovers and three assists.

Bad, bad, bad. Evansville pulled that huge upset, 67-64.

So, the alarm clock was set early for Hagans.

"He doesn't think I'm a morning person, all of them don't think I'm a morning person," Hagans said. "I needed the practice, it was just too arly. He was on me all week. He wanted me there with some other guys around me, just talking and getting comfortable."

He wasn't going to try and do too much early in Kentucky's 76-67 win over Alabama, more like ease into the game, or something like that.

Hagans grabbed a defensive rebound and had an assist on Keion Brooks' first jumper of the game, which was 36 seconds old.

"I was just trying to go out and trying to get everybody involved," Hagans said.

The 6-foot-3 point guard did just fine with the getting others involved, and working for rebounds.

Hagans looked to drive when it was available, converting in heavy traffic once in the second half while Alabama was trying to creep back into contention.

Hagans looked for other shots too, like a 3 that he made late while UK was still trying to hold off Alabama.

"Hagans, though it seems like he doesn't make a ton of 3s, he hits timely 3s," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "The one where he came off the screen and hit the pull-up was huge."

Hunting for shots as needed, being a rebounding guard, finding teammates for open shots on the perimeter and inside.

All of that left Hagans with an almost triple-double, 15 points, nine rebounds, nine assists. Hagans also had three steals and four turnovers.

Hagans didn't shoot particularly well (4-of-10) but he did manage 6-of-9 free throws.

Anybody who has played five minutes for Calipari as head coach for UK knows how this goes.

If you have the ability and talent, Calipari will push a player in the desire to get better department. Get in the gym, work on your craft, put up hundreds of shots, figure out how to be a better point guard, enhance your defensive skills.

Hagans had the defensive part of things down fairly well as a freshman, but his offense needed a lot of work. He couldn't finish drives and was at best a spotty outside shooter.

Calipari wants those huge numbers from Hagans every night, or every lunchtime or early afternoon, as was the case Saturday.

"I wasn't happy with Ashton," Calipari said. "See, I think Ashton's the best point guard in the country. He is a tough defender, pick-and-roll defense. He'll rebound. He can get in the lane. He has a good twitch, which means if someone's open late, he'll find you. He's shooting the ball better. But I didn't think he brought it to the level."

The level of a near quadruple-double, maybe?

"That's how much I think of you," Calipari told Hagans. "You're a triple-double, and I'm saying you're better.

"You're still undisciplined both offensively and defensively, you make four or five plays a half that hurt our team, and only because of discipline."

Hagans appreciated the concern.

"Knowing I could've had a triple double and hearing your coach say you could've played a lot better, that just shows he has a lot of faith in me," Hagans said.

Just turn those near triple-doubles into actual ones.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.