KANSAS CITY, Mo. – P.J. Washington returned to the line-up for Kentucky as the Wildcats met Houston in the NCAA Tournament for the first time ever and UK would lead the Cats to a 62-58 win.
The Cougars scored first on an Armoni Brooks three pointer but that only started some early back and forth scoring. Kentucky grabbed a 6-5 lead as Ashton Hagans found Reid Travis for a slam.
UK went to the first media timeout down 7-6. That’s when P.J. Washington checked in and immediately helped the Wildcats. The first time he touched the ball he hit a hook shot on the baseline to put UK back in front 8-7. He then drew a double team and found Immanuel Quickley for a three pointer. Washington also had a slam and caused a turnover on the Cougars end.
Houston would get within three of the Wildcats when UK rattled off seven straight. P.J. hit two free throws, then Keldon Johnson drained a three pointer and Tyler Herro made a floater in the lane as UK would build a 30-20 lead and cause Houston to call timeout.
After Houston got close again, UK ballooned the lead back to double digits. UK scrambled for a loose ball on their end of the floor and Quickley hit another three pointer. Then, E.J. Montgomery got a rebound and putback to give UK a 37-26 lead at the half.
Washington and Herro led UK in scoring with 8 each. P.J. hit all three of his shots from the field and both free throws while all in 9 minutes of play.
In the second half, Herro would knock down a shot to give UK a 13 point advantage and then Travis found Washington for a slam. But Houston would go on a 7-2 run to pull within 43-38 and force Coach Calipari to take a timeout.
Nick Richards ended the drought as he got a tip-in to push the UK lead back to seven. But, Houston would claw back. Armoni Brooks hit two three pointers, one of them deep, to get the Cougars within two, 47-45. Washington stopped the run with a baseline hook shot. However, Brooks hit another three to tie the game at 49 and Corey Davis, Jr. would drive to give Houston the 51-49 lead with 3:25 to play.
Washington hit two free throws to tie it at 51. Then, Brooks drained another long three to put the Cougars up 54-51. Travis hit two free throws then Ashton Hagans knocked down two to give the Wildcats a 55-54 lead.
DeJon Jarreau would give the Cougars the lead again as he would drive for a lay-up. Then, Davis, Jr. hit a floater to extend the lead to 58-55 with 1:05 to play.
Washington got the ball in the post and scored as he was fouled. He missed the free throw and UK was down 58-57. But P.J. got redemption on the other end with a block. UK would find Herro and he hit a three pointer to put UK back in front 60-58 with 25.8 seconds to play.
Davis would miss a floater for Houston and Herro was fouled and hit both free throws to give UK a 62-58 lead with 13.7 remaining.
UK would hold on to win 62-58. Herro led UK with 19 points. Washington had 16 in 23 minutes of play.
The Wildcats are on to the Elite Eight where they will play Auburn on Sunday.