No. 6 Kentucky was without its starting point guard during Saturday’s 71-70 comeback win against Florida in Gainesville.
Wildcats sophomore Ashton Hagans did not make the trip to Florida, coach John Calipari tweeted just before the game, and stepped away from the team due to personal reasons.
Ashton did not make the trip with us to Florida. He and I met a couple days ago and he asked to step away for a couple days for personal reasons. I support his decision. We are going to need him at 100% for the postseason.— John Calipari (@UKCoachCalipari) March 7, 2020
Let’s Get this Win Fellas!!! Love y’all boyss💙Be back & Better!!! https://t.co/kRwLyDDzh0— ashton hagans (@H23Ash) March 7, 2020
Calipari said after the game that Hagans told him he was “in a bad way.”
"My first responsibility is the health and well-being of my players," Calipari said, via ESPN. "And when a guy tells me, 'Coach, I've gotta step away,' I'm with it. Tell me why. Tell me what you're thinking. What is it? I'm good. I'll see you when we get back and hopefully, what you'll see is an inspired young man. And if he doesn't think he's ready for that, then he's not ready. We're going to go with whoever we have."
Hagans has averaged 11.5 points, 6.4 assists and 3.9 rebounds while playing more than 33 minutes per game this season with the Wildcats. His numbers have been down in recent weeks, however, and he suffered a left thigh injury in their matchup against LSU late last month.
While Calipari didn’t say specifically why Hagans was stepping away, he did say that “outside pressure” his players feel under the spotlight at Kentucky had an impact, per ESPN.
"Here is what I tell you about these kids: In the last three years, this has totally changed," Calipari said, via ESPN. "What is on these players? The clutter that they gotta deal with. The lists, what's out there. Not being able to stay in the moment. The anxiety of worrying about a year from now. Everyone around them.
"And then you're at Kentucky, where every game is someone's Super Bowl. Every game is sold out. And then you start struggling four or five games and now you don't know how to deal with stuff."
Calipari said he “fully” expects Hagans to be back with the team for the start of the SEC tournament next week.
Kentucky’s massive comeback vs. Florida
The Wildcats looked as if they were in trouble for most of the contest on Saturday afternoon, ready to drop their second-straight game after blowing a 17-point lead to Tennessee on Tuesday.
Kentucky, after falling into an 18-point hole, rallied all the way back in the final 10 minutes of the second half behind 17 points from Richards in the period to stun the Gators with the one-point win.
The Wildcats sealed the deal in the final seconds, too, after EJ Montgomery’s tip-in was ruled good with just 11.8 seconds left — which gave Kentucky its first lead of the game. Florida had one last chance and got a good look at a game-winning 3-pointer, however, Andrew Nembhard couldn’t quite get it to fall.
"Coaches gave me the challenge to see if I could turn it around," Richards said, via the Associated Press. "I took on that challenge. Obviously, we came out with a really big win."
Richards led Kentucky with 19 points and seven rebounds. Immanuel Quickly added 12 points and both Keion Brooks and Johnny Juzang finished with 10.
Scottie Lewis led Florida with 19 points while shooting 5-of-8 from the field. Noah Locke finished with 14 points and Keyontae Johnson added 12 points.
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