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John Calipari & Wildcats recap wild win at Florida

Once these Cats get going, watch out!

NCAA Basketball: Kentucky at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kentucky’s PJ Washington has been through his share of hard knocks on the road in the Southeastern Conference.

On Saturday afternoon in Gainesville, the 6-foot-7 sophomore, put those lessons to good use as the Wildcats rolled to its eighth straight win in a 65-54 victory over the Florida Gators.

Washington finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds while being relentless as a vocal leader, lighting a fire under his teammates during numerous on-court huddles and recording his third straight double-double to lift the Cats to its first win at Exactech Arena since 2016. Julius Randle was the last UK player to record three straight double-doubles during the 2013-14 season.

Tyler Herro continued his hot streak in conference play, finishing with a game-high 19 points, while connecting on his 28th consecutive free throw this season. Keldon Johnson struggled early, but finished with 10 points, including two crucial three-pointers in the second half.

With a poor shooting effort to start the game, the No. 7-ranked Wildcats trailed 33-29 at halftime and feel behind 42-31 with 15:00 minutes remaining. The Cats then went on a 10-0 run that included a Washington free throw, a Johnson stick back and three-pointer, followed by a bucket from Washington and two free throws by Herro to cut the lead to 42-41 at the 9:15 mark. Johnson would ultimately put the Cats ahead 50-48 on a three-pointer with 4:53 remaining.

Herro pushed the lead to 55-48 with 2:50 remaining on a deep three pointer and Immanuel Quickley made two free throws to cap a 14-0 run that extended the advantage to 57-48. Hagans, Herro and Quickley combined to go 6-for-6 from the free throw line over the final 43.6 seconds to seal the win.

Kentucky 18-3 (7-1), has turned up the heat on the defensive end and is now back in the conversation as a national title contenders come March. The Cats are now 70-0 in the John Calipari era when holding teams to fewer than 55 points. The Wildcats host South Carolina on Tuesday night at Rupp Arena.

After the game, Kentucky coach John Calipari, Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson met with the media to discuss the win. Here is a recap of all postgame comments, courtesy of Florida and UK Athletics.

John Calipari

Opening Statement…

“I was so happy for EJ Montgomery, I really thought he was the difference in the game. We needed one more big guy to do something and rebound down the stretch. We are still a work in progress, we are halfway up the hill. We knew Florida would come out and play. I thought we were tentative in the first half, I though Ashton took a step back, but the last seven or eight minutes, he stepped back up and was the player he has been the last month.”

How much did PJ become the guy you want him to be in the second half…

“He is building his own confidence and taking control of games and coaching players on the court. I have been waiting a year and a half for this.”

On taking all of those shots…

“We ended up taking 21 in the game, and we know between 21 and 23 three’s is what I would like them to shoot. The amazing thing is that they (Florida) only took 19. Coming into the game, they were shooting on average 30 threes a game the last five games.“

Difference in the second half…

“The press bothered us. It was as much my fault as theirs. When you look at it we ended up trying to do a couple things and it was ugly. So we just tried to screen it and beat it on the bounce. I told them after that I didn’t have us as well prepared, which put us on our heels to start the game.”

Tyler Herro

On PJ Washington’s turn around during the second half…

“He was big. You know, he was just being a leader. I think when we see a guy like PJ who has been here before, he works hard everyday in practice, us young guys can look up to him and just take his lead and follow his lead.”

On defending Locke and Allen…

“I think coming in, we knew they were dangerous shooters. I think they shoot eight or nine through a game, each of them. We knew that they were going to get their shots up, just having a high hand, getting there early, and not allowing them to get going from the start. So, I think we did a good job on them.”

Keldon Johnson

On what happened during the first half and shooting…

“We just struggled during the first half, especially me. I feel like I was rushing a little bit. I just had to get settled down, calm down, and play basketball. That’s why I came out in the second half I got things going a little bit.”

On the late comeback…

“We just had to dig down deep, come out, and get it done. We knew that we didn’t want to lose. We all had each other’s back. We just went out there, locked down defense and communicated.”

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