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PJ Washington channeled Julius Randle tonight

For 30 minutes, Kentucky did little to convince fans they’re better than the team that dropped three of its last five; then, PJ Washington took over.

Washington slammed down a beautiful lob from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, waking up the Rupp Arena crowd and his teammates, who had allowed Mississippi State to tie the game with mental errors and lackadaisical play. Don’t get me wrong; Kentucky’s issues didn’t go away after PJ’s dunk — in fact, he made a dumb turnover himself a minute later — but there’s no denying that his play inspired the best effort we saw from the team all night. Without it, Kentucky would have lost and dropped three in a row for the first time since Billy Gillispie was coach, a horrible scenario I’m really grateful not to be writing about tonight.

PJ finished with a career-high 22 points along with six rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists. After his dunk, he assumed the leadership role that John Calipari wanted him to take a month ago, bullying his way to the basket and matching Mississippi State’s effort on each trip down the floor. After a big block with about a minute left, he did that little flex that he loves to do, and you know what? I wasn’t even mad; I flexed too.

When PJ’s playing like that, Kentucky’s issues in the post don’t seem so dire. Mississippi State head coach Ben Howland said that in the second half, his team had no answer for PJ’s physical play.

“He’s strong. He’s physical around the rim. He’s patient. He used a lot of shot fakes to get us up in the air. He’s just a very, very good player who has great hands and a great feel for the game using his body to create space to get shots off around the basket.”

After the game, Calipari said the difference in PJ’s game tonight was he hit his free throws and fought through contact — the smart way.

“He got to the basket. Made some layups, got by people. We’ve been working on him, trying to get him to get his shoulder — instead of ‘I’m just going to push you out of the way,’ he’s quick and fast enough and long enough, make a move and get your shoulder by the guy so now any contact is a foul on him. If you don’t, you know that if they can call a charge, they will.”

It worked. PJ got to the free throw line 14 times tonight, and even better, he made 10 of those shots, a welcome improvement over his 59% mark coming in. When I watched PJ play tonight, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Julius Randle, a comparison that feels especially appropriate given Calipari’s comments yesterday about the differences between the 2014 team and this team.

“Julius, physically, gave you something that maybe this team doesn’t have. He could just bulldoze you. But PJ, at times, does the same, gives you some of that.”

For PJ to be the Julius Randle that this team needs, he’s going to have to carry tonight’s performance over. Earlier this month, Calipari anointed PJ this team’s leader only for the freshman not to hold up his part of the bargain in practice.

“I’m trying to tell PJ I want him to lead, but I’m also having to teach him how he’s got to be on that basketball court all the time to really be the leader he needs to be,” Calipari said back on January 12. “In other words, when you come with that spirit, that competitive spirit, you’re in that frame of mind, I need you to lead. When you’re in there to jerk around, or joke, or grab, that brings practice down. Then I don’t need you to lead.”

Tonight, PJ led and saved Kentucky from itself. For the Cats to have a chance vs. West Virginia, the most physical team they’ve faced thus far, he’s going to have to do it again and even better. No stepping back.

“We need that,” Calipari said. “PJ’s gotta give us that.”


Article written by Mrs. Tyler Thompson

No, I will not make you a sandwich, but you can follow me on Twitter @MrsTylerKSR or email me.

16 Comments for PJ Washington channeled Julius Randle tonight

  1. DelrayCat
    1:07 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    PJ reminds me of Terrence Jones more than any other UK baller.
    However, he got Old Man game in him.
    Channeling a little Mashburn at times…

    • RajonTheDon9
      2:56 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      Trying to hit the Ave. up ?

    • DelrayCat
      10:13 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      Always…but I’m so close. You?
      Bru’s always good for the big game.

  2. Cokely53
    6:19 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    I think at this point in the season it’s clear PJ needs to be our consistent leading scorer. Knox will have his nights but going to PJ in the post seems to be where we are most successful

  3. DG
    8:10 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    Fire Cal, call Billy D

    • CatstopWontstop
      9:30 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      That’s just dumb.

    • Peas and Carrots
      9:39 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      U r dumb

    • 4everUKblue
      9:43 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      Ban DG, keep Cal.

    • 4everUKblue
      9:58 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      U r dumb say the guy who chose Peas and Carrots as a username….lol

    • Peas and Carrots
      10:11 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      I wasn’t talking to you. U r dumb too for thinking i was.

  4. nicky
    8:12 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    Good stuff TT……thanks….Your last paragraph perfect

  5. Jiminy Crickets
    8:24 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    The first 30 minutes of that game was some of the worst basketball I’ve ever watched. The last 10 minutes was much better, but they say they were good is a stretch. I pray this team flips the switch, but I just don’t see anything that tells me they will. Our guard play is still weak, and we still allow people to drive by asking you straight to the rim without much fight. Currently we have four players on our team that really want to play. Shai, Gabriel, PJ and Vando, but vando is still RAW. The rest look like they’re sleep walking.

    • Peas and Carrots
      9:43 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

      I like SKJs effort too. He doesn’t always put himself in the best position or convert his scoring opportunities but he consistently puts out more effort than Richards.

  6. jcatron
    9:25 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    I see (in time) him being a Chuck Hayes type of player. Liked his toughness last night. Team fed off of it late.

  7. Smyrna_Cat
    9:29 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    It seems most of UK’s problems have to do with the team being so young and inexperienced. Amazing how we didn’t fix that in 30 minutes. Far Cal! LOL

  8. CatstopWontstop
    9:38 am January 24, 2018 Permalink

    PJ Washington channeled his inner PJ Washington last night. I know it’s tempting to throw back to 2014 with this team, and KSR has accurately posted plenty of articles claiming we shouldn’t do that. Let this team be this team.