LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With this Washington, there is no shutdown.
All right, that might not be quite accurate. Kentucky coach John Calipari did sit sophomore P.J. Washington for six straight minutes of Tuesday's 76-55 win over No. 22 Mississippi State because he didn't like the way Washington was playing.
When Washington came back, he was lights-out. He finished with a team-high 21 points, scoring inside and out, to lead the No. 8 Wildcats to their second straight win over a ranked opponent, and fifth straight win overall.
"I told P.J., 'I left you out six minutes and you know what you came in and played as good as you played all year. Maybe I should leave you out six minutes. Maybe that gets you going. Maybe you need to rest,'" Calipari said.
Washington's response? A grumble.
“I mean it comes to, I have some relapses sometimes," Washington said. "Sometimes I won’t rebound and stuff like that, so I’m just trying to look at film and just work on that in practice.”
Mississippi State pulled within 41-39 with seven minutes gone in the second half after Kentucky had established a 10-point lead early and went to the half up by eight.
But after the Bulldogs pulled within a bucket, Kentucky responded with a 9-2 run that it extended to 17-4 to take command.
Washington scored eight points in the stretch after the Bulldogs began to threaten, and freshman Tyler Herro got seven on his way to an 18-point night.
MSU coach Ben Howland praised Kentucky's defense for speeding his team up offensively and preventing it from finding any kind of rhythm.
Key to that effort was the work of Ashton Hagans at point.
“I feel like we’re coming together on defense and we’re playing a lot better," said Hagans, who finished with a team-best nine assists to go with a pair of steals. "We’re talking more on the defensive end.”
Kentucky was the first team to hold Mississippi State under 60 points this season. It denied the Bulldogs three-pointers, running them off the line and dogging them into 3-for-20 shooting from beyond the arc.
For the game, MSU shot just 31.1 percent while UK shot 44.1 percent from the field and went 8 of 16 from three-point range. Kentucky also outrebounded Mississippi State 44-38.
"They are getting better," Calipari said of his team. "Now I've just got to keep an eye on being humble and being hungry. Not, you know, getting carried away, because we're just -- we're just beginning the climb of where we need to go. We had 16 turnovers today. So we're just beginning the climb. The last game against Auburn, we got up, whatever it was, 16, and I showed them the ten plays that we were self-inflicted that let them back in the game."
Next up for Kentucky -- a third straight game against a ranked team. No .9 Kansas visits Rupp Arena on Saturday, with ESPN's College GameDay at Rupp Arena.
Copyright 2019 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.