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Kentucky finds a Herro it needs to beat Houston 62-58

Tyler Herro, left, came up big for Kentucky Friday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By LARRY VAUGHT

Kentucky couldn’t score. It had let an 11-point lead get away in the second half of Friday’s Sweet Sixteen game against Houston and had 10 points in 15 minutes in the second half. If that wasn’t bad enough, Tyler Herro not only shot an air ball on a contested shot but he missed a free throw — something he never does.

“I haven’t seen him miss a free throw in a long, long, long, long, long, long time,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said after his team did rally to beat Houston 62-58 to advance to Sunday’s Elite Eight game against SEC rival Auburn. “He missed that free throw. I looked at my bench. I go, ‘This doesn’t look good for us because, you know, when he misses a free throw, this could go south in a hurry.’”

Houston overcame a 37-26 halftime deficit to take a 54-51 lead with 3 minutes, 10 seconds to play. Kentucky could have folded, but it didn’t.

— Reid Travis hit two free throws with 2:52 left and then the UK defense forced an air ball.

— About 30 seconds later, Ashton Hagans got fouled on a drive and hit both free throws to put uK on top 55-54.

— Houston charged back to take a 58-55 lead with 1:08 to play before PJ Washington got the ball inside, scored, was fouled but missed the free throw leave Houston on top 58-57 with 55.8 seconds left.

That set the stage for two huge plays — a Washington blocked shot and then a 3-pointer by Herro with 25.8 seconds to play to put UK on top 60-58.

“He didn’t listen to me. When he caught it, I said “Drive the ball, drive the ball,’” Calipari said. “He shot it. I said, ‘Great shot, Tyler. Way to make those plays.’”

Houston had one final chance but Hagans’ defense was just good enough to force a miss. Hagans got the rebound, passed to Herro and he was fouled. This time he was money at the foul line with 13 seconds left to ice the win.

Herro finished with a team-high 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting along with three rebounds and two assists.

“I love our will to win. How we played down the stretch, Ashton making free throws, Tyler makes his shot, PJ makes the 3-point play. We make our free throws, we defend,” Calipari said. “But Houston, they’re a terrific team. They were not going to go away. We had to go get balls and do some stuff to beat them, and it was a great win and I’m happy for our guys.”

Herro downplayed the shots he made late.

“I just brought the ball up. Hit Keldon on the wing and I made the (3-point) shot. My free throws I just knocked down my normal two free throws,” Herro said.

Washington’s presence was huge, too. He had missed the previous two games with a foot injury, was in a cast until Tuesday and didn’t practice until Friday when he did very little. He had 16 points on 6-for-8 shooting in 26 minutes.

Calipari said without Washington, Kentucky doesn’t win.

“He was good, really good,” Calipari said.

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  1. Wow. What a game. Herro put the team on his back in the last 30 seconds and never blinked. And coming back down the court for his last 2 foul shots, the young man is steely eyed while telling his teammates to settle down. Impressive stuff for a 19 year old…. which brings to me to my point. I am tired of hearing negative anything about Coach Cal’s “one and done” players. I’d venture to guess that those freshmen leave UK more mature than a large percentage of the student body. Cal sends them into the world with eyes and arms wide open. And that, my friends, is an eternal gift that separates us from the pack.

    GO CATS

  2. Did we really win that game? I am still trying to verify that. Defense continues to win these close games for us and kudos to Cal and the boys for that! I was worried when we started flirting with a all systems meltdown in the 2nd half. A great return by PJ, and he seemed to have confidence in his leg and his play. A great board night for Travis, but he has to find a way to score more than 1 FG in a game. I think his offensive numbers have been a little disappointing all season long. Johnson and Hagans going 4-14 probably won’t win anymore games either, and we have to find a way to cut down on those unforced turnovers. Maybe the stars are lining up for us, but they doing the same for the Pukies. With Zion still being a 1 man wrecking ball, they would still be favored in a rematch……and yes, K still owns Cal.

    1. Mike your rant here makes no sense, “did we really win the game?”Yes, UK really won. I don’t care how, they just found a way to win. You should be glad, and rejoice instead you complain. Houston was a good team with a great coach. As fo rthe Dukies, they are just plain fortunate too IMO, twice now. UCF got robbed, and VaTech gave them all they wanted. Why don’t you go root root for them if you like ZW so much. As for Reid Travis, he is doing a lot of things to help this team win instead of scoring. Like fighting off double and triple teams in and around the paint, getting the ball to open people , rebounding, and playing hard nosed defense at the rim. As for you’re old buddy coach ” K” owning Cal, I don’t think so. Most of us on here don’t think that either. All of us on here who have been critical of Calipari this season, me included at times for his system of OAD, and freshmen laden teams every year, we better be careful what we wish for. When the smoke and talk all settles, I’ll stick with Calipari as long as he wants to remain at Kentuckyi. He just reloads and gets it done as this year is proving. Three more wins and Kentucky is the National Champion. If they fall short, it has still been a good year for Kentucky basketball.

      1. Pup….You need to relax my friend. My opening ? was facetious. The way we played the 2nd half it didn’t really feel like we won the game so looking for a little confirmation. Where were the negatives in my post? What I said were facts as I saw them…not saying that all need to agree. Coach K does own Cal in recruiting and coaching. We are playing just good enough to win and survive and yes that is plan for this time of year, but we have the talent to be great this late in the season. Granted, we are not the only team playing less than their best. Puke is probably the favorite to win it all. I hope we get a chance to play them again but am also careful of what I wish for.

        1. Mike, you sound just like Jay Bilas or Dick Vitale. When UK loses it’s fair game, I get that, but after a win like that and you still want to bitch and complain about our boys, geez. I don’t care who UK will face ahead, I just hope they keep winning anyway they can. If it’s Duke so be it. They better take care of MSU first though. Like I said, you sound just like a Dukie when you trash our coach in favor of the chief Blue devil. Cal has taught Coach K everything he knows about OAD recruiting. Since Cal has been at UK, how many No. 1 classes has he produced versus Coach K. Let’s see how 2019 goes and compare notes.

  3. Mike you can say all you want. These Cats are winning with a fight and will to win.

  4. That weak inferior SEC that all the experts look down on, don’t tell me they don’t either, now has two teams in the elite 8, that means at least one SEC team will be a final 4 contender and maybe even a national champion. Weak basketball conference? Yeah right. Sell that to the “Cheating Tarheels” about now.

  5. I’m with you Norm. Time to give the negative a rest. Time to embrace the hard work these young men and Coaches have put in.

  6. Did any of you see the games today? That’s the kind of battle that is waiting for us tomorrow. Sure, Okeke is out, but Pearl is going to have his team jacked up. We have the talent to win tomorrow, we have the will to win, but do we have the heart to play all out for 40 minutes? I hope so, they have come a long way. They still have lapses that will not help their cause tomorrow, but if they come ready to fight, we should prevail. It would be a shame for it to end now. We will soon find out.

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