Share this:

PJ Washington, Keldon Johnson help Kentucky dominate Auburn 80-53

Ashton Hagans and Keldon Johnson had a lot to like in Saturday’s win. (UK Athletics Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

No Reid Travis, no problem for Kentucky.

The Wildcats (23-4) got another SEC Player of the Year-like performance from PJ Washington to lead the way to a surprisingly easy 80-53 victory over Auburn here Saturday in the first game playing without Travis after he sprained his knee Tuesday. An 18-0 run — UK’s longest of the season — to end the first half and start the second half put the game out of reach with 16 minutes left to play.

Washington had a career-high five 3-pointers and finished with 24 points, six rebounds, two assist, one block and one steal. He was 9-for-13 overall from the field and 5-for-8 from 3-point range. It was his sixth straight game to lead UK in scoring.

“He is playing like best player in the country,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said.

But the best news for UK was that he got plenty of help, including 17 points, four rebounds and two assists from Tyler Herro.

However, what really helped was that Keldon Johnson became a warrior on the boards and grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to go with his eight points and also had five assists, another career best for the freshman.

“Keldon told on himself today. If he thinks he is getting two rebounds next game, I am going to be all over him,” Calipari said. “If you are able to go above the rim against a team like that … he went after the ball. He was screaming to grab balls. Really proud of him.”

If that wasn’t enough, how about point guard Ashton Hagans going 6-for-8 from the field and finishing with 14 points (his best total since he had 23 points at Georgia on Jan. 13), five assists and one steal. He had two 3-pointers and two more makes where he had his foot on the 3-point line. If he shoots like that from the perimeter, the Cats become even more difficult to defend.

“Sometime they understand without Reid, we all have to do this,” Calipari said.

Kentucky, which has won 13 of its last 14 games, was 11-for-24 from 3-point range —Herro was 3-for-6 — and Auburn, a team known for its 3-point prowess, was 8-for-27. The Tigers also had a season low in points, the fifth team UK has done that five times now to SEC opponents.

“They are becoming empowered and coaching each other. It’s fun to see,” Calipari said.

Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said what Kentucky does is good and simple.

“I am not surprised they are this good. I am surprised we were not competitive,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “I thought we legitimately had a chance to play with them. We were physically overwhelmed.

“We got manhandled in different way. Kentucky is one of best defensive teams in the country. Speaks to the character (of the players) and competitors (they are).”

* * *

Kentucky is now tied with Tennessee and LSU at 12-2 in the SEC with four games left in regular-season play after LSU’s overtime win over Tennessee. Kentucky still has to play at Tennessee on March 2.

14 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. Big time win for the Cats….surprise, surprise..the Cats won both halves. Great defense continues with this team. We had three guys in double figures, and it was nice to see Hagans get back with some offense but still too many turnovers and not enough steals. EJ and Nick played pretty solid but hope we can get a little more offense from them in Knoxville. Three point shooting out of sight and very nice to see. I think the defense is playing better than most of us thought it would be.

    1. Not most of us coach! ! ! DEFENSE has been consistent as a whole for a while as most National commentators know. Those of you who like you have said they are wanting a new coach and have even mentioned names(the NEGATIVE NELLY’S) were wrong then and now and just like during the FB season (DUPED BY STOOPS).
      Those of us who are RIDE OR DIE or to continue a theme from last week those of us who love Tammy’s “STAND BY YOUR MAN”. Or those of us who were raise to ” DANCE WITH THE GIRL YOU TOOK TO THE PROM “. Expected the DEFENSE to stand up. The wow was how well the offense played and how we rebounded with out Travis. Looks like CROW is on the menu again tonight, ROFLMFAO. GO CATS

  2. This team is getting more and more scary at the right time. There a fun bunch to watch in terms of how they play as a team. Go Cats!

    1. This team is peaking at the right time They should go through the SEC Tournament like sliced butter..

  3. We still have 4 tough games. Nick and EJ did enough today. Hope this gives both of them some confidence to do a little more. Glad to see Ashton taking shots when he has them. It keeps the defense honest and makes him a better playmaker. Can PJ keep shooting like this? If he can, it takes this team to a contender level. Great win, but it will be nice to get Reid back.

  4. Were already a title contender. Go cats!!

  5. Best performance of the year…so far.
    Hopefully, things will continue to improve.
    More tough games ahead…GO BIG BLUE !!!

  6. UKFAM…Congrats on the great recall. Wish my memory was as good as yours. I am glad I have been such a positive influence on you..LOL. May have to save my “Duped by Stoops) for next year…may also be able to suffer with Cal for couple more years. He does have to recover his mojo on recruiting trail.

  7. Mike you probably the type of person put house for sale sign on Stoops ssfront yard 2-3 years back and the man has proof you wrong. Just suck it up and enjoy the ride.

    1. Cats79…Yes sir, I did have a sign prepared for Stoop’s front yard. I have saved it this year for Gran’s front yard.

    2. The verdict on Stoops is still being decided. We still are not competitive in the SEC as far as winning the East Division much less winning a SEC title. Until Stoops is able to recruit 5 star talent to KY, we will also be an also run team who hopes to become bowl eligible by beating non conference nobodys and the bottom of the SEC east…Vandy, South Carolina.

      As for the basketball team, they have accomplished more than I thought they could. When a healthy Travis is back, they could go to the final 4. Without Travis, these last 4 games are going to be tough. Nick and EJ did enough to make up for the absence of Reid. Keldon really made a difference with his rebounding. Ashton started taking and making shots. This was clearly their best game of the season. I hope they can continue this level of play.

      As for a coaching change…YES, I still think Cal has shown that he is more concerned about getting kids in the NBA and has publicly stated that he couldn’t care less about winning the SEC regular season or SEC title. He says UK is about winning national titles, yet he has won 1 when he should have won at least 4 with the teams he has had. His recruiting is over stocking guards and wings while the elite big men are going elsewhere. I think Cal has accomplished all that he can and he is ready to move on to the NBA one more time. Yes, I think we should be talking to OKC about trading coaches.

      Oh, I almost forgot…RAH, RAH, RAH!!!!

  8. Great win, and young men stepped up when they needed to after a key injury. Got some help from LSU yesterday too. That game in Knoxville looming out there will be a war. Stay hungry CATS!

  9. WISHFUL thinking catmandoo!!! Oh Rah Rah Rah

    1. I agree Cats79. UK has seemingly turned it around and begins now too march toward No. 9, but Catmandoo1000 would never be satisfied, but right now, I am completely satisfied with this team. Let him opine, hey, opinions are like noses, just about everybody has one. Calipari deserves the credit for this team’s performance too, just like he was responsible for it’s early season woes. He never ran from it, he took the criticism like a man and is building a champion.

      I’m not a big Stoops or Calipari fan, but results are hard to ignore. Winning is all that counts in the end, ask Saban. Can UK win out, I say yes. If I’m wrong so what? I’m enjoying the season right now.

Leave a Reply