By LARRY VAUGHT
Teammates knew without P.J. Washington doing what he did, Kentucky would have had no chance to be in the game at the end Thursday night against Kansas State.
He finished with 18 points and a career-high 15 rebounds along with three steals, another career high, and one block while playing all 40 minutes in Kentucky’s 61-58 NCAA Tournament loss that ended UK’s season at 26-11.
While he was 5-for-7 from the field, he was just 8-for-20 from the foul line.
“We lost. I didn’t play good at all. As you saw, I went 8-for-20 from the line. I feel like if I would have made at least half of those, we would have won the game, so I didn’t play really good,” said Washington.
He said the loss was “hard to deal with” because the players all expected to win.
“It was a great season and I loved playing with this team,” he said. “If I make free throws, we win the game. Instead, we lost.”
He’s right — and wrong.
If he hits 14 free throws, a 70 percent mark, UK likely would have won. But if he had not dominated the game inside to draw so many fouls and also get six offensive rebounds UK would have had no chance to win.
It’s easy to look back and say when he missed free throws that coach John Calipari should have taken him out But he couldn’t because he was UK’s only inside scoring threat and best rebounder.
“I was just trying to do everything I could to possibly win the game. I was just trying to get the ball on the rim.
I am glad guys trusted me and got me easy baskets,” Washington said. “I felt like the refs called it tight both ways. We just had to capitalize on that and get the ball inside and we did a great job of that. It was a great opportunity and everybody wanted to win. It is what it is.”
Washington said he didn’t lose his confidence at the foul line despite missing shot after shot.
“I just tried to shoot with confidence. I felt like I was shooting well but they just didn’t go in and we lost,” Washington said.
Don’t forget he had a huge blocked shot late in the game and came within inches of blocking what turned out to be the game-winning shot for Kansas State.
“We had the momentum late and let it slip away,” Washington said. “I almost blocked it (the last shot) but I didn’t and we lost the game.”