When Kentucky was down 11 with 13 minutes left, TV cameras caught PJ Washington lighting into his teammates. The Florida student section seized on the moment, chanting, “PJ’S ANGRY!”:
Also, the growth of PJ Washington the last few weeks has been AWESOME. Three weeks ago he looked like he was counting down the minutes until he could leave for the NBA. Since then he's played at an All-American level + being the LEADER his team needs pic.twitter.com/Ra80lkTGuS
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) February 2, 2019
The moment was reminiscent of Ashton Hagans telling Keldon Johnson to wake the f*** up at Auburn, and like Ashton’s, PJ’s wakeup call worked. From there, Kentucky went on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to one. They would hold Florida to only 12 points over the final 13:59. PJ finished with 15 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, his third straight double-double. He’s the first Kentucky player to to do that since Julius Randle.
The double doubles are great, but PJ’s most impressive trait lately is leadership. Tyler Herro was on the receiving end of that rant, but like Keldon Johnson at Auburn, took it well.
“He was big,” Herro said of PJ. “He’s just being a leader. When you see a guy like PJ who’s been here before, works hard every day in practice, us young guys look up to him and take his lead, follow his lead.”
“He’s building his own confidence,” Calipari said. “He’s taking control of games. He’s coaching players on the court. I’ve been waiting a year and a half for this and now, we’re doing drills and he’s finishing first. Anything we run, he’s finishing first and he continues to build his own confidence.”
Florida coach Mike White said PJ was the best player on the floor.
“PJ, not only his numbers, the way he rebounds, his presence, the attention he drew in the paint, which led to other guys getting open shots and then the fouls that he drew, he was the best player on the floor.”
“Bigs that pass, dribble, and shoot it are very dangerous,” he added. “And draw fouls and move schemes defensively and run the floor like a deer — I mean, he’s terrific. His game has progressed in the past year. He’s developed. He just seemed to make us pay.”