KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Kentucky’s PJ Washington missed the free throw that would have tied the score with Houston with one minute to play.
But then he lunged for the game-saving block at the other end of the court, setting up teammate Tyler Herro’s three-pointer with 25.8 seconds to play, which led the Wildcats to victory. Because that’s just what star players do.
Kentucky made it past the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament without Washington. But it didn’t have to endure a third. The No. 2 seed outlasted third-seed Houston 62-58 on Friday in the late Midwest Region semifinal at the Sprint Center, moving on to an Elite Eight matchup Sunday with No. 5 Auburn.
Washington overcame his left foot injury to score 16 points in his return, and Herro finished with 19 on 7-for-13 shooting. Houston’s Armoni Brooks led all scorers with 20.
“We’re a very different team without him in the lineup,” said Kentucky graduate student forward and former DeLaSalle star Reid Travis, who supplied six points and 11 rebounds against the Cougars. “Obviously, just look at his production, his leadership, the things that he does on the court for us, the way he can pass. He makes a lot of us a lot better.”
Houston couldn’t quite reach its first Elite Eight since 1984.