Kentucky advanced past Houston to make the Elite Eight on Friday night as sophomore forward PJ Washington was a huge reason the Wildcats rallied to win.
Missing the NCAA tournament’s first weekend with his foot in a hard cast, Washington came off the bench on Friday night as he scored 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting. Washington also added a huge block late in the game with the Wildcats trailing by two in the final minute. On a night where Kentucky’s offense struggled to produce quality looks, Washington’s ability to score on the block was vital for the Wildcats to escape with another win.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari said in the postgame interview that Washington didn’t go through the team’s shootaround on Friday as he was a game-time decision. Washington said his foot didn’t have much feeling after Friday’s win as his status remains uncertain for Sunday’s Elite Eight game with Auburn.
“It’s feeling good. I don’t feel no pain right now. A lot of adrenaline. It’s probably going to be hurting later so I’m going to go home and get some treatment. And get ready for the next game,” Washington said after Friday’s win.
If Washington is healthy enough to play, and give this kind of effort, then he’ll likely try to give it a go against the Tigers in the Elite Eight. Although Washington isn’t as springy as normal, he still did an effective job of letting his skills do the work in the post as he got position on the block and went to work against Houston. Kentucky’s best player in the Wildcats’ blowout win over Auburn in late February, Kentucky probably needs Washington to play, and be somewhat effective, if they want to reach another Final Four.
Washington and the Wildcats will be facing a hot Auburn team riding an 11-game winning streak as the Tigers look like a different team since the loss to Kentucky in Lexington.