One definitive area of consistency for Kentucky over the past month has been the swarming defense of freshman point guard Ashton Hagans. Most notably, he had an eight-steal performance at the United Center against North Carolina in the CBS Sports Classic.
The ball pressure that Hagans forces on opponents, for the most part, cannot fully be measured within the stat sheet. The amount of energy and effort that it takes the opposing point guard to run his team’s offense is far greater than when there is not that type of in your face defense. This showed on Saturday as Alabama became tired and nearly folded down the stretch.
There is some great news for Kentucky fans in terms of Tuesday’s conference home opener against Texas A&M. The Aggies’ point guard, TJ Starks, has accounted for nearly 50 turnovers this season. His official stat line is 49 assists to 49 turnovers.
For perspective, Ashton Hagans leads UK in turnovers this season, but he only has 26 to go along with 43 assists. So obviously, the assist-to-turnover ratio for Starks is less than ideal, especially since in six games this season he has tallied four or more giveaways. In Texas A&M’s opening game this season, Starks accounted for a total of nine turnovers while shooting 1-10 from three.
Needless to say, it appears that attacking TJ Starks has to be the game plan for Hagans and the entire Kentucky team.
Over the past few games, you have seen opponents get frustrated and in the face of Hagans, including Louisville’s Darius Perry along with several Alabama players. This is something that I don’t think Hagans minds one bit.
It is clear that he embraces the challenge of defeating his opposition on each and every play. It is no wonder why Hagans, who for all intents and purposes should still be in high school, is becoming such a fan favorite among the Big Blue Nation. His tenacity is extremely valuable and will continue to be so.
In his last three games, Hagans has totaled 14 steals and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. He only seems to be getting more and more comfortable on both ends of the court. I would watch for Hagans picking up Starks full court on Tuesday night and making things very difficult for him all game long.
Hagans with a steal as he jumps and intercepts Darius Perry's transition pass.— Steven Barnhart (@HWHoopsCentral) December 29, 2018
Hagans apparently shakes his head at Perry after the steal.
Hagans has Gary Payton-like hands. He's "The Glove" of college basketball. pic.twitter.com/014eQ0po2N