By LARRY VAUGHT
At halftime it didn’t seem likely that P.J. Washington would be a key contributor for Kentucky.
Yet that’s exactly the way it played out as Washington had 10 of his 16 points and just one of his five turnovers in the second half of Saturday’s 81-71 win.
“Early on he bumbled balls and turned it over. He had five turnovers today and they were all like fumbles balls and maybe a charge,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said. “He and Wenyen (Gabriel) had nine of our 13 turnovers. We had 13 turnovers and those two had nine.
“When the game got in the balance, P.J. made every play he was supposed to make. We need him to play 40 minutes that way, or 30, whatever minutes he’s playing. “But even if he’s playing poorly, I have all the faith in the world to go to him and that’s what we did. We went at him.”
He delivered in a big way the second half, too, when Kentucky needed him most.
Washington, a freshman, said it wasn’t complicated what he was trying to do at the end of the game.
“At the end of the game, I tried to get the guys up in the air tried to get easy fouls and get to the line. I did that and I made my freethrows. I’m proud of myself and I’m proud of my team for giving me the ball,” Washington said.
Powering his way to the basket and finishing plays enabled Kentucky to end its four-game losing streak.
“It was a great learning experience for us. We learned a lot from losing those four games, I feel like we’re going to be a lot better the next couple of games,” Washington said.
“If we play like this, we feel like we can beat anyone in the country. We need to keep doing this in practice and eventually in the games. We’ll keep working on it every day.”