PJ Washington came back for his sophomore season to show he can do more. And so far, he’s doing just that. Although his stats against Mississippi State don’t reflect a well-rounded performance, they do show he’s accomplishing one of his big goals for this season: showcase his long-range shooting ability.
Washington finished a perfect 3-for-3 from behind-the-arc Saturday against Mississippi State. On the season, the 6-foot-8 forward is 22-49 for 44.9 percent. That’s a huge jump from last season, when he finished the season 5-21 for 23.8 percent. His 3-pointers against the Bulldogs pushed his number of successful 3-point buckets this season over the number he even attempted as a freshman.
While John Calipari said Washington “reverted” against Mississippi State, Bulldog coach Ben Howland recognized his team had a tough time guarding Kentucky’s big man.
“Washington was very hard for us to handle,” Howland said after the game. “He hit the two three’s early when we were supposed to be running him off the three-point line, because he’s been shooting 47 percent from three in the last five games. He was, again, 3-for-3 today, so his percentage is probably over 50 percent now in the last six games from three.”
Howland’s quick math is correct. Although Washington’s three-point shooting has been improving all season, he’s hit his stride from deep over the past few weeks. Take a look at his last six outings:
Mississippi State: 3-5
South Carolina: 2-4
Mississippi State: 3-3
So, Coach Howland’s assumption regarding Washington’s recent performances pushing him over 50 percent was correct: Washington is 11-for-20 for 55 percent across the last six games. Still, it isn’t enough for Calipari.
“I think he’s the best player in the country, but not like he played today,” Coach Cal said after the game. “Doesn’t go get rebounds, doesn’t get loose balls, missed one-footers, missed every free throw — what? Come on. If you’re the best, play that way. Come out with great energy, a motor. It’s not about made shots, it’s about how to play.”
Recording 23 points, nine of them from the 3-point line, on the road is an accomplishment. But if Washington combines that sharp shooting with his rebounding and physicality under the basket like Cal says he can, he’ll be an even more dangerous tool for the Wildcats.