Kentucky holds on to beat Houston, P.J. Washington key

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KANSAS CITY, MO (WTVQ/AP) – P.J. Washington was in too much pain to take part in the Kentucky Wildcats shoot around Friday, but played in the game that night and had a key block late to preserve a 62-58 win over Houston in the Midwest Regional semifinal.

The sophomore forward single-handedly outscored the Cougars bench by finishing with 16-points to go along with the defensive play of the game to send the UK program to its 34th Elite Eight, which is an NCAA record.  This is the Wildcats seventh Elite Eight in the last ten years under Head Coach John Calipari.

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Kentucky had been playing without Washington since March 16, who sprained his left foot in the SEC Tournament semi-final against Tennessee.  His status was a mystery right up until the first media timeout, when he entered to a standing ovation from Solid Blue fans behind the Kentucky bench.  He ended up playing 26-minutes.

Freshman Tyler Herro led Kentucky in scoring with 19, which included a key 3-pointer with 25.8 seconds left in the game to give the Wildcats the lead after Houston had erased a double-digit UK lead.

Herro’s huge basket gave the Wildcats a 60-58 lead and came after Houston’s Corey Davis Jr. had his driving shot swatted away by P.J. Washington.

The Wildcats were in control most of the first half and took a commanding lead into halftime.  Houston battled back and used a 17-6 surge to come back from 13-points down to take the lead late in the game, only to see Kentucky close out with a 7-0 run to seal the victory.

Kentucky will take on a familiar foe Sunday in 5th-seeded Auburn, with a trip to the Final Four on the line.  UK beat Auburn twice during the regular season in conference play.

Game time Sunday is 2:20 p.m. EDT