By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore Nick Richards remembers playing in the Sweet Sixteen when Kentucky was upset by Kansas State. On Friday night, the Cats are favored to beat Houston in the Sweet Sixteen but the status of PJ Washington could have a major impact on how that goes.
Still, Richards insisted Thursday that what happened last year could help tonight.
“Last year was a sad time for us after our loss in the Sweet Sixteen, and we didn’t handle it right. This year, guys who have returned are more motivated and learned from mistakes we made (last year), to help the younger guys this year not to make those mistakes,” Richards said.
What about if Washington, the team’s leading rebounder and scorer, can’t play?
“I think we’re confident that, with him or without him, we’re a team. And if he’s not with us, someone has to step up,” freshman guard Immanuel Quickley said.
“Coach has prepared us the whole season for situations like that (injuries) and no matter what happens, you always have to be ready,” Richards said.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said with or without Washington, Houston will be a “tough” game for UK.
“They are a great team. They play fast. They have guards that are very good. They are very athletic inside,” Herro said. “They have great guards. They can score the ball. We have to beat on them, early and often, and not allow them to get confidence.
“It’s going to take fight. They are going to come at us hard. We have to come at them. It’s going to be a competitive game for 40 minutes.”
Calipari has explained to his players what they have to do on both ends of the court.
“You have to take smart shots,” Quickley said. “Honestly, we have to defend as well, so we can get out in transition, and get easy baskets for ourselves. So, focusing on our defense is vital.”