Arguably no Wildcat has had a bigger impact outside the scoring column than Hagans this season, especially defensively. He’s averaging 7.8 points on the season, but he’s been one of the most important players in Kentucky’s defensive surge during the second half of the season.
Take, for example, the North Carolina win. Hagans scored seven points, but his fingerprints were all over the outcome, especially on the defensive end, where he tied a school record with eight steals (previously set by Wayne Turner on Nov. 24, 1997, vs. George Washington and Rajon Rondo on Feb. 19, 2005, vs. Mississippi State).
UNC head coach and Hall of Famer Roy Williams said it best: “Ashton Hagans is 2 for 6, seven points, and I thought in some ways he was more dominating in the game than anybody.”
Hagans’ 1.8 steals per game is ranked third in the SEC and eighth nationally among all freshmen. Prior to a two-steal night against Mississippi State at home, Hagans had corralled at least three steals in seven straight games. He’s the only player in school history with such a streak (since steals became an official NCAA statistic in 1985-86). According to STATS, he was the first major-conference freshman with three or more steals in seven or more straight games since Wake Forest’s Chris Paul did it 10 straight games in the 2003-04 season.
As Hagans’ defensive stock went on the rise, his offensive numbers followed. He’s scored seven or more points in 17 of the last 25 games, including back-to-back-to-back career-high scoring days vs. Louisville (11), Alabama (12) and Texas A&M (18), followed by a 15-point effort vs. Vanderbilt. Hagans then topped it with a career-high 23-point effort in his homecoming on the road at Georgia. He also leads the Cats with 4.2 assists per game, which is seventh in the SEC.
He’s aand won SEC Freshman of the Week twice during the season. On Monday he was named to the