Coming into last night, I think we all knew Ashton Hagans was playing at a high level, but after another big performance against his home state Georgia Bulldogs, the sophomore point guard is flirting with history.
Hagans had 23 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals in last night’s 89-79 win, the only player with that stat line in the John Calipari Era. Kentucky’s had a lot of great point guards over the past decade, and right now, Hagans belongs up there with all of them. In fact, he is currently on pace to break Tyler Ulis’ record for assists in a single season, something I’m not sure many of us would have predicted back in October.
Let’s jump into the numbers to fully appreciate Hagans’ season so far.
15 consecutive games with 5 or more assists
The best streak since Tyler Ulis had five or more assists in 24 straight games in the 2015-16 season. Hagans also had a run of 10 consecutive games with 6 or more assists that ended at Georgia two weeks ago. It was the best such streak since Roger Harden’s 12 consecutive games with 6 or more assists in the 1985-86 season.
7.3 assists per game
First in the SEC, 8th in the country
2.26 assist-to-turnover ratio
Second in the SEC behind Auburn’s J’Von McCormick (2.34)
2.17 steals per game
Second in the SEC behind Missouri’s Dru Smith (2.3), tied for 30th in the country
Freshman to Sophomore Jump
Now, let’s look at how Hagans’ production has improved since last year.
2018-19 averages: 7.7 points, 4.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 2.5 turnovers
2019-20 averages: 13.6 points, 7.3 assists, 2.2 steals, 3.2 turnovers
That’s an increase of 77% in scoring, 70% in assists, 38% in steals, and, unfortunately, 28% in turnovers.
Hagans’ field-goal percentage (42.6%) is actually down from last season (46.7%), but that’s because he’s taking a lot more shots. Last year, he averaged 2.7 makes per 5.8 attempts. This year, he’s averaging 4.0 makes per 9.4 attempts.
As we’ve all noticed, Hagans is taking more threes as well. He’s up to 30.8% from behind the arc (0.7 makes per 2.2 attempts) from 27.5% (0.4-1.4) from last season. He’s also getting the line way more often, averaging 4.9 made free throws per 6.1 attempts (80.9%) compared to 1.9-2.5 (76.1%) his freshman year.
So basically, confidence.
Chasing Ulis (and Rondo?)
Tyler Ulis holds the record for most assists in a single season in Kentucky Basketball history, with 246 in 35 games, an average of 7.0 per game. Right now, Hagans has 131 assists through 18 games, an average of 7.3 per game. As Chris Fisher pointed out last night, through 18 games in the 2015-16 season, Ulis had 108 assists (6.0 per game), but his numbers took a big leap in the second half of the season. In Kentucky’s final 17 games that year, Ulis averaged 8.1 assists per game to take the record from John Wall.
Even if Hagans doesn’t break Ulis’ record, he’ll end up high on this list:
(Stats from BigBlueHistory.net)
What about steals? Right now, Hagans has 39 steals through 18 games (2.2 per game). Rajon Rondo holds the UK single-season steals record of 87 in 34 games (2.6 per game), meaning Hagans has a chance to see his name on this list as well:
(Stats from BigBlueHistory.net)
If Hagans continues at this rate, the noise will only get louder and the pressure more intense, which is why Calipari and his staff have been on him about staying disciplined. When Hagans started chasing a double-double late in last night’s game, Calipari chided him.
“I say it again, Ashton is as good a point guard — my opinion the best point guard in the country and the reason is how he defends. He can go shut out any of the three guys, whoever he needs to guard, pick-and-roll defense, dribble handoffs, all the stuff, being able to keep people in front, getting his hands on balls. And he, at the end of the day he was mad Johnny (Juzang) didn’t shoot it because he wanted another assist. That’s why I grabbed him. I know why did you that and got mad. You wanted another assist, you’re going to lead our, the school in assists in our history, so stop it. Just play basketball.”
After the game, Hagans admitted that breaking Ulis’ record would be a very big deal.
“It would mean the world to me. To come into your dream school and achieve something [like that]. If I do get that, it would be a dream come true.”