Josh Harrellson arguably had his best game as a Kentucky player in Tuesday night's 74-67 gut-check victory over Washington in the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
He scored nine points and grabbed a career-high 14 rebounds in the victory. He even attempted and made his first three-pointer of the season, and it came at a timely moment in a nip-and-tuck game full of timely moments.
"He came close to a double-double — let me say this — against a top-10 team," UK Coach John Calipari said in a mild exaggeration. Washington came into the game ranked No. 13. "... That's a big deal."
But not big enough to allow Harrellson to resume tweeting his thoughts. An ill-conceived tweet in the pre-season complaining about not being appreciated by Calipari led the UK coach to shut down the Twitter account and rev up the running Harrellson had to do as punishment.
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If Harrellson tweets again, "He'll be running an hour before practice," the UK coach joked (?).
Harrellson has given the extra conditioning credit for his belated renaissance as a player. His performance against Washington improved his season total to 19 points and 36 rebounds. He had 28 points and 27 rebounds all of last season.
But Calipari noted a contribution on the defensive end.
"It wasn't what he did on the boards," the UK coach said. "It's what he did in pick-and-roll defense because everybody thinks that's our Achilles' heel. And he proved today it's not our Achilles' heel."
Calipari also noted an offensive contribution.
"How about the three he made?" the UK coach said. "He can shoot threes probably as well as anybody we got. If we needed a three, I'd have no problem throwing it to him because (opponents) won't guard him because they think he can't shoot it."
When asked about his gaudy statistic, Harrellson said another career-high number meant the most to him.
"The thing I'm more happy about is 34 minutes playing," he said. "Last year, I couldn't play 10 minutes a game without (getting tired). Playing 34 minutes and coming through for my team when they needed me most, that means more."
It wasn't an easy game for Harrellson or any player on either team.
"I battled as hard as I could," Harrellson said, "and gave my heart."
Washington Coach Lorenzo Romar noted Harrellson's contributions, especially the game-high seven offensive rebounds.
"He took advantage of the opportunity of not being boxed out," Romar said in handing out a left-handed compliment. "Some don't. Some don't know how to take advantage."
Washington's defense would cut off a penetrating drive by a UK player. Then the Huskies were late rotating over to stop Harrellson from cleaning up with put-backs.
"It was not a situation where they were throwing it to him on the block and we couldn't stop him," Romar said. "He put himself in the right place at the right time and took advantage of some of our miscues."
But that didn't detract from the sense of accomplishment that Harrellson enjoyed.
"I'm a totally different person all around," he said. "I'm more confident. I know I can be there for my teammates. I don't have to come out every two trips down the floor."