Outside of Tyrese Maxey’s stellar play, the biggest takeaway from Kentucky’s win over Michigan State was defense. Led by reigning SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Ashton Hagans, the Cats held the Spartans to 39.3% from the field, 19.2% from three. Only Cassius Winston scored in double figures, and even then, made only one of seven three-pointers.
Today, John Calipari said he can’t think of a team that’s been this good defensively to start the season.
“What I saw defensively, for this early — this is my eleventh year. I’m not sure if there’s a couple teams that were better defensively at this point than we were that game. I don’t.”
Of course, a lot of that credit goes to Hagans, who has done such a good job guarding Maxey in practice that Calipari said it was no wonder Maxey had a breakout performance against someone else.
“You guys haven’t been in practice, you would have seen that Tyrese has not done that, what he did up there. Not one day in practice. Not one day. As a matter of fact, I’ve been all over him. If you ask who I’ve been the toughest on, they’ll tell you him and in second place is Kahlil [Whitney]. But he’s the one. But part of it is he has to go against Ashton. My son and I were talking today and he was talking about Ashton and he said, ‘There’s no one like him. You don’t realize it until you play against him. You can’t even make a bounce.’ Ask Johnny Juzang. When that kid switches on Johnny, Johnny says, ‘Here, take it.'”
Ouch for Johnny!
“And so, he has to go against Ashton and then he started driving, like, ‘Holy cow, I can drive! I can get a shot off!’ That shot, that deep shot he had, Ashton would have been to where his head would have been hitting the kid’s chin. So, it’s been a great thing and it’s been great for Ashton, to play against somebody that good.”