Kentucky men’s basketball advances to Elite 8 with win over Houston


Freshman guard Tyler Herro drives the ball against a Houston defender. University of Kentucky men’s basketball team played University of Houston in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament at the Sprint Center on Friday, March 29, 2019, in Kansas City, Missouri. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

KANSAS CITY, MO. — For the 27th time in school history, the Kentucky Wildcats played in the Sweet 16, this time against the Houston Cougars in Kansas City, Missouri. The Cats came out on top 62-58 as they advance to the Elite 8 for the seventh time in 10 seasons under head coach John Calipari. 

The leading story heading into Friday night’s matchup was certainly the status of sophomore forward P.J. Washington— after missing the first two games of the NCAA tournament with a sprained foot, it was announced earlier in the week that Washington’s cast had been taken off and he was walking. On Friday, hours before the game, UK’s starting lineup was announced— but without Washington in it. However, after the first timeout about five minutes into play, Washington checked into the game, sending UK fans in attendance into loud cheers. 

It didn’t take Washington long to find his rhythm. The sophomore scored his first points of the NCAA Tournament just 35 seconds after being subbed in, giving the Cats an 8-7 lead. He was UK’s leading scorer for much of the first half and tied Tyler Herro for the most UK points at the half with eight. 

Early foul trouble was a downfall for the Cats yet again, but not from any of UK’s big men. Freshman Ashton Hagans took to the bench halfway through the first half with two fouls, and picked up his third in the first few minutes of the second. Quickley replaced him and came in big for the Cats, nailing two of his team’s three threes in the first half. 

By halftime, the Cats had taken an 11-point lead, led largely by Herro and Washington while Travis led the team in rebounds with five. Their largest lead of the half was 13. 

A Herro pull-up jumper gave the Cats another 13-point lead to begin the half, and while they wouldn’t keep it for too long, UK maintained a comfortable lead for the first 10 minutes of the second half. 

Houston gained some momentum mid-half as Corey Davis Jr. started heating up, and the Cougars cut the UK lead to just one with 5:16 left to go. Washington came up big with a response, hitting a jumper to put UK up by three, but Houston responded with a three-pointer to tie the game up at 49. 

Houston took a three-point lead after draining a shot from behind the arc from Armoni Brooks with 3:10 to go, but a pair of Travis free throws and two from Hagans gave the Cats the lead back. 

After several more lead changes, freshman Herro sank a huge go-ahead three-pointer to give Kentucky a 60-58 lead with 25.8 to go. Houston couldn’t execute on the next possession, fouled UK, and Herro hit both free throws to seal the deal for the Cats.

Kentucky will face off against SEC rival Auburn in the Elite 8 on Sunday at 2:20 PM ET on CBS.