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BOZICH | Washington makes Houston feel the pain Sports



KANSAS CITY, Mo. (WDRB) – Missing the most, most anonymous, juvenile message board could not have criticized Kentucky forward PJ Washington in Washington had decided to miss the Wildcats' Midwest Regional semifinal against Houston Friday night.

Washington has a terribly painful left foot, the result of a sprain he suffered nearly two weeks ago.

Hard cast. Walking boat. Around-the-clock treatment. Aquatic therapy. Medical specialists in several states

All that stuff helped speed the healing process. But Washington's foot still hurt Friday morning. right before the game, ”said UK associate head coach Kenny Payne.

"He wasn't going to allow his team to lose," Payne said. "Whatever play he needed to make, he made.

" He made sure his team won. When the game was headed in (Houston's) direction, in the huddles, he handled the huddles… thats a leader. ”

For the next two hours, Washington did not play. Washington excelled, inspiring Kentucky into the Elite Eight past a formidable, gritty, 33-win Houston team.

Washington scored 1

6 points, two more than his average. He played solidly efficient basketball, making six of eight shots. His final two points came on the child of rugged, contested post move that will make Washington a first-round NBA Draft pick in June.

Washington was not thinking about the first-round when he made that move. He was thinking about the fourth-round of the NCAA Tournament.

"To ever question (Washington putting his NBA future) over this team is crazy," Payne said. "That's not who he is. PJ Washington is a winning basketball player who is 100 percent about this team. ”With Kentucky trailing by three, after leading by 13, Washington took on a Houston defender on the left side of the lane. Watch the video. You won't see a guy with a bad foot.

There's more.

Corey Davis, Houston's top scorer, flashed through Kentucky's defense while attacking the rim. His intent was to extend the Cougars' lead. It appeared that Davis had a layup. Davis had nothing.

Washington soared higher than he had soared all night, swatting Davis' drive away.

Washington's foot was hurting. You can count on my checking his rebound total. He had two, less than a third of his average. Washington didn't have his usual lift getting off the court. He found the lift to block Davis' shot.

Tyler Herro took it from there, making a three-point jumper and two free throws in the final 25 seconds to secure Kentucky's spot against Auburn at 2:20 p.m. (EDT) The Sprint Center Final for the Midwest

"One guy has been excluded from practice Saturday," Payne said.

I wonder who.

, "Washington said. "Kind of started hurting in the second half but I have to tough through it.

" Through the end of the game it was trying to cramp up. I'm definitely going to get some treatment after this and try to get a good night's sleep. ”

Expect Washington to play Sunday, but understand that his availability is not guaranteed. He played nearly 26 minutes. The plan was for Washington to play 15-to-16.

He entered the game less than five minutes after it started – and scored in the first 35 seconds he was on the court.

Throughout the first half – and Early in the second half – UK trainer Chris Simmons would remind the coaching staff to substitute Washington for a one-or two-minute rest after he had played for three or four minutes

In for three or four.

Until Kentucky needed Washington as much as the Wildcats needed him this season. Washington played 8 minutes and 51 seconds in the first half. The game was played almost 17 minutes in the second, including the final 11 minutes and 42 seconds.

"Whatever we did worked," Payne said. “He gets to ice his foot for 24 hours. I don't even want to think about playing with PJ Washington on the floor.

Washington was determined. But he was also honest. He said his foot hurt after the game. Said it several times, in fact.

"We don't win the game today without him," UK coach John Calipari said. “We don’t.”

They don’t. And now they'll have to wait and see if they have PJ Washington Sunday against Auburn. Remember: When Kentucky defeated Auburn, 80-53, in Rupp Arena Feb. 23, Washington scored 24 points, making five shots from distance

"When PJ doesn't play, we're a good team," Payne said. "When PJ Washington plays we have the potential to be a great team that is still getting better."


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