Washington ‘used to’ physicality in UK’s 86-69 win over Tennessee


Sophomore forward PJ Washington analyzes Tennessee’s defense. No.5 UK men’s basketball team defeated No.1 Tennessee 86-69 at Rupp Arena on Feb. 16, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

For most of the spectators watching the game, Kentucky’s 86-69 win over the no. 1 ranked Tennessee Volunteers was one of the most physical basketball games they’ve seen in a while. But Wildcat sophomore P.J. Washington says otherwise. 

“I mean, I’ve been playing physical all my life,” Washington said post-game. “Growing up playing physical against older kids, so I’m used to stuff like that.” 

In his sophomore year of college, he’s still going against “older kids” and physically dominating games. Against the Volunteers, Washington matched up with junior Grant Williams, and managed to notch 23 points and five rebounds.  

The Cats were diving all over for balls, fighting in the post and ended up outrebounding Tennessee 39-26. The physicality of the game was certainly expected, given the forceful duo that is 6-foot-6, 241-pound Admiral Schofield and 6-foot-7, 236-pound Williams.   

“I think they’re probably the most physical team in the conference,” freshman Tyler Herro said. “I think we out physical-ed them tonight. We just played harder and wanted it more.”

Herro fought for 13 rebounds against the Vols (two offensive, 11 defensive), far surpassing his career high, which was nine in the very first game against Duke. 

Kentucky graduate student Reid Travis brought his toughness and experience to the table as well, finishing with 11 points and eight rebounds. He also made his way to the foul line 10 times, making seven of his shots.

“The difference maker in the game for us was Travis. Now his numbers, 11 and eight, and you can say what you want, but he was a beast against another beast,” Calipari said. 

The win made for Washington’s 10th straight game in double figures—the first player to do so since Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored in double figures in 10 straight games last season. 

“Well, again, he’s doing some good stuff. I mean, you are looking at him now making shots and skilled with the ball and stuff that a year ago he couldn’t do,” Kentucky head coach John Calipari said of Washington. “Making free throws, playing, sustaining effort, not floating and coming in and out.”

The sophomore was scoring on anyone and everyone that came in his way, and Herro gave a very specific reason as to why Washington is able to get into his opponents’ heads. 

“I think they’re scared of him honestly,” Herro said. “Scared of P.J. I think a lot of people are now that he’s scoring how he is and doing what he’s doing.”

Calipari says a big part of Washington’s improvement from last season is toughness, conditioning and focus.

“I told P.J. you need a hug, my man, after that game,” Calipari said.”Because he’s in the tub right now, he’s on I.V. again after this game… But I’ll say this. P.J.’s playing so well.”