Nick Richards and Ashton Hagans played integral roles in Kentucky’s 78-69 win at Georgia two weeks ago. Ahead of tonight’s rematch in Lexington, Georgia head coach Tom Crean had nothing but praise for Kentucky’s veterans, particularly Hagans, who finished with 13 points, five assists, and four steals despite spraining his ankle three days earlier vs. Missouri.
“You’ve got to screen him, you’ve got to move him. He’s so quick and so good defensively and that’s what he’s superb at. I think Arkansas realized the other day, okay, we’re going to back off him and he’s going to bang shots. He’s a confident player. He’s a highly, highly confident player and I would say that’s one of the great traits that he has as a player. Obviously, the defense of what he does is so strong there. Quick, quick hands. Really, really delivers the ball.
“They’ve got great players and they’re extremely well-coached and everyone they can put in can play but they’d be a much different team without him on the floor. He makes so many things happen for everybody else, and that’s what makes him so valuable.”
At Georgia, Nick Richards had 17 points off 8-11 from the floor and 7 rebounds, earning MVP honors from the UK Atlanta Alumni Club. He was limited in the first half due to foul trouble and the Cats floundered, allowing the Bulldogs to go up by six at halftime. Once Richards was back in, order was restored to Kentucky’s offense and they were able to pull off the win.
“He’s darn near impossible to guard,” Crean said of Richards. “We have to change some coverages on him, there’s no doubt about that. He’s playing at a high level. When they win, he’s playing at an extremely high level and he’s really become the player I’m sure that they hoped he would become. He causes a lot of problems around the rim with his rebounding and his scoring. He’s a very, very good defender. He runs, he can beat you down the floor. We’ve got to find a way to match his energy.”