Much of the focus on Saturday’s night game is on the matchups in the post. How the Cats defend Tennessee’s two bigs are important, but John Calipari knows Tennessee’s success comes from more than Grant Williams and Admiral Schofield.
“They’ve got a deep team and their guard play, the way they shoot and the things that they do,” Coach Cal said at Friday afternoon’s press conference. “They’re not winning with one guy or two guys. They’re winning because of how they’re playing. The biggest thing is because they lead the country in assists, they’re not going to beat themselves and they’re going to create opportunities and they shoot the ball well. You better play a good game. Better not be any tentativeness, just let it go and go play.”
Over the last three games, Calipari has seen too much tentativeness from Ashton Hagans.
“Ashton the last three games has not played well. Matter of fact, he’s not played well at all. This is a game where we’re going to need him to get back to where he was ten, twelve days ago when everybody was talking about him as the best on-ball defender in the country, a difference-maker, a creator, he pushes. That’s all gone away. We need that back.”
Over the last three games UK’s point guard has committed nine turnovers, while forcing just three steals. He’s averaging 4.6 points and assists through the three-game stretch.
“He’s a freshman. He hit a little bit of a wall.” Calipari believes it’s a hurdle Hagans can overcome.
“I just think you get tired. You lose focus and you get numb. Every game we play is the same. It’s someone’s Super Bowl. It’s an out of this world game, the stadium’s filled. Other teams are playing out of their minds and you kind of get numb to it and all of a sudden you’re not playing with the energy, the focus that you need to play with.”
Calipari added, “He’s had a heck of a year, he’s just had a bad week and a half.”