UK players Ashton Hagans and EJ Montgomery spoke to the media before they faced off against UNC in Chicago. They discussed defense, rebounding and Keldon Johnson playing Santa Clause.

Ashton Hagans 

EJ Montgomery 

Quotes from UK Athletics 

#2, Ashton Hagans, Fr., G

On what he knows about North Carolina …
“I know they have a couple of good players, got a couple of good scorers. We’re really just focused on ourselves right now, trying to get better as the days go by.”

On what the team can learn from a game like this …
“We’ve just got to come together as it goes. Stay a brotherhood. Get better at practice, on the defensive end and as that comes along, we’re just going to get better as a team and start getting more ‘W’s’.”

On if the team feels ready for a game like this …
“The coaching staff is preparing us big time for this game and as the season goes on. We’ve just got to come along as a team, start talking more, get close together and we’re just going to be better as it goes.”

On what he thinks about Coby White …
“He’s a great player. He does what he does for his team. So we’ve just got to come out there and go as the game plan says.”

On if players on the team are starting to figure out their roles …
“Most definitely. Colleges want us to play as a team, so you’re given, each one of us, a role to play. Me and (Immanuel Quickley), just get the ball, fly up the court, try to find everybody, get everybody an open shot. If we’ve got the layup, take it.”

On if Coach Calipari has simplified his offensive game …
“Just get my teammates involved, get them an open shot and see how that’s going.”

On if he has gained confidence playing in college games …
“In high school, I had the ball in my hands most of the game. It was easier for me. Here, it’s the same thing, but I have good players around me. In high school, it was just me and another dude beside me. But on this team, we’ve got a lot of key players. We’ve got Keldon (Johnson), EJ (Montgomery), Reid (Travis), really the whole team.”

On the mental preparation for North Carolina …
“Really, just getting prepared as the week goes on. Cal has been on us all week. We’ve been running a lot, we’ve been working on defense more. You’ve just got to stay humble, go out there and know you’re not the only one out there on the court. You’ve got a team full of guys that love you and that are out there with you trying to fight.”

On what they have learned about North Carolina this week …
“We really haven’t had much film. We watched a couple of highlights. We just, at practice, go over what they do in game situations and what we could do to help that. Really, we’re just focusing on trying to get the ‘W’ and play hard.”

#23, EJ Montgomery, Fr., F

On the game vs. UNC …

“It’s a big opportunity for us to go out there and prove we’ve been working hard lately in these last few practices.”

On whether this is a chance to make people forget about the Duke game …

“Just trying to go out there and prove we’re getting better every day. Every time we step on the floor we’re trying to get better and just improve every day in practice.”

On how much more mentally prepared the team is compared to the season opener …

“The team’s just going to go out there and fight, play defense, just do all the little things to just help the team win.”

On North Carolina …

“I just know they’re a good team, good school. This is going to be a dogfight.”

On whether UK is well suited to play UNC’s pace …

“I think we’re better like that too. We’re a transition team. We get a lot of transition buckets when we’re going up and down. We’re just having fun out there.”

On the team’s Christmas dinner Wednesday night …

“It was a great experience going in and feeding families, giving gifts, just giving back.”

On the last week with no classes …

“It’s been very productive. We’re going, getting a lot of work in, just getting a lot of repetition and just working hard.”

On what it’s like to play the three position …

“I’m comfortable. It’s a lot faster. I have to play guards and I’m just learning every day.”

On the challenge of defending smaller players …

“It’s a bigger challenge. They definitely don’t stop moving and keep running around. You gotta be in shape to guard a guard.”

On where they have improved the most since the Duke game …

“I think we’re all just getting comfortable now. We’ve been working a lot on defense and just going out there and fighting.”

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