LEXINGTON – January 6, 2020 – Keith Taylor
Ashton Hagans is returning to his home state, but it’s not known whether he will even play when No. 14 Kentucky takes on Georgia Tuesday night.
Hagans suffered an apparent low ankle sprain in the Wildcats’ 71-59 win over Missouri last weekend in the team’s Southeastern Conference opener. Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus said Monday Hagans is listed day-to-day.
“We had a very cerebral day (Sunday) after the game that we played Saturday,” he said. “We came back yesterday, watched film like we always do and had some more of a scripting walkthrough day. We’ll see where he is today, but I think for us, it’s day-to-day.”
Justus added that he was’t sure if Hagans was able to practice Monday prior to the team’s departure for Athens and added “you never know with what the medical folks say.”
“I know our guys love to practice, and I think that’s why our team is getting better, so I think they’re going to be wanting to practice as much as they can just like they want to play,” he said.
Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley said not having Hagans in the lineup “would definitely be a big position for us to fill.” Quickley said Hagans indicated that his ankle “felt fine.”
“What he gives our team, what he brings, his energy, his leadership, his defensive ability, his toughness,” he said. “All stuff that’s hard to replace, but we would just have to try to do it as a collective team.”
It will take a team effort to hand the Bulldogs their first loss at home this season. Georgia (10-3) is coming off a 65-62 win at No. 21 Memphis and is 8-0 at Stegeman Coliseum this season. The Bulldogs’ SEC opener will be Kentucky’s first true road game of the year. Two of the Wildcats’ three losses this season have been on a neutral court, but Quickley said things will be different in Athens.
“Every game’s tough,” Quickley said. “Most teams’ student sections are right on the floor, so they’re screaming and yelling and saying stuff. Just gotta try to be composed and, for a freshman, that can be tough. But I’ve seen it before so probably won’t be too rattled, too nervous or anything like that. Just gotta try to stay composed and try to help out the young guys.”
The Bulldogs will be led by freshman guard Anthony Edwards, who is third in the SEC in scoring with 18.4 points per game. Edwards scored 13 points in Georgia’s win at Memphis, ending the Tigers’ 10-game winning streak.
“He’s like 6-foot-6, really strong, athletic, can shoot, can create his own shot, which in turn makes his teammates better because you’re spending so much attention guarding him,” Quickley said. “We’ll have a tough task guarding him.”
Kentucky freshman Keion Brooks Jr. knows about Edwards and has been competing against the Georgia standout since “about the third or fourth grade.”
“I’m very familiar with him,” Brooks said. “(He is a) great player. We’ve just got to do everything we can to make it hard on him and limit his open looks. He’s just a great all-around player. He can score on all three levels of the floor, very good with the ball, a good shooter, so we’ve just got to make sure we’re making it tough on him, limit his open looks and when he does get one, just make sure we’re there contesting.”
Despite the quick turnaround, Justus said “our game plan is further along today than it was (Sunday).”
“I think for our young guys they now understand, after being in one league game, how good the players are and they understand how good the other team is going to be,” he said. “Now going into a hostile environment, that it will be like down there, you’ve got to hope that they’re focused and what they can control they control. That’s their preparation, their sleep and their mental approach to the next 24 to 48 hours.”
Gametracker: Kentucky at Georgia, 9 p.m., Tuesday, ESPN. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.