P.J. Washington’s incredible, terrible game


Kentucky freshman forward PJ Washington guards the ball during the game against Kansas State in the NCAA Sweet 16 on Thursday, March 22, 2018, in Atlanta, Georgia. Kentucky . Photo by Arden Barnes | Staff

P.J. Washington, U.K. basketball’s 6-7 bruising power forward, had one of the best and worst games of his life Thursday night. The team lost to Kansas State in the Sweet Sixteen 58-61, and Washington finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds.

However, his 12 missed free throws loom over him and the Cats like a dark storm cloud.

“We lost. I didn’t play good at all. As you saw, I went eight of 20 from the line. I feel like if I would’ve made at least half of those, we would’ve won the game, so I didn’t play really good,” Washington said.

He’s right on his statistical analysis, at least. If he makes six more free throws, the Cats win by three.

However, his performance soaking up fouls to put Kansas State in foul trouble was likely one of the reasons that the Cats from Lexington were even in the game. Xavier Sneed, Kansas State’s leading scorer, fouled out by reaching in on Washington. He was one of two players to commit their final foul on the Dallas native.

From the floor, Washington was 5-7, by far the most efficient on the team. His 15 boards were more than half as many as Kansas State’s entire team, and a career high for him. He played all 40 minutes of the game while adding a block and three steals. He had six of UK’s 11 offensive rebounds.

And yet, his missed free throws feel like the reason the Cats’ rollercoaster season has now come to an end.

“He was badly hurt [emotionally],” UK forward Wenyen Gabriel said. “I don’t know how much worse it can get to that, I feel for him. I feel like I missed those free throws.”

Gabriel finished 1-5 from the floor with three points. He’s also one of two sophomores on the team, and had advice for the young post player.

“I know he’s going to think about that a lot, but you got to tell him, ‘It’s not your fault, you can’t make every shot,’ that’s how the game goes. I know he’s going to be in the gym working on his free throws moving on from now, but that’s in the past right now,” Gabriel said.

Washington missed more free throws than Kansas State’s entire team, but it’s hard to think he was the reason UK lost. If anything, he could be considered the reason UK almost won.