Mark Story

Instant analysis: Who’s up, who’s down after Kentucky’s 62-58 win over Houston

Keldon Johnson: ‘We just played to our training’ in UK win vs. Houston

Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson talks about how UK pulled out a 62-58 win over Houston in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Friday, March 29, 2019. The Wildcats play Auburn on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.
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Kentucky freshman Keldon Johnson talks about how UK pulled out a 62-58 win over Houston in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Friday, March 29, 2019. The Wildcats play Auburn on Sunday for a trip to the Final Four.

Instant analysis from NCAA Tournament Midwest Region No. 2 seed Kentucky’s 62-58 win over No. 3 Houston on Friday night:

How the game was won

Kentucky’s PJ Washington made a season-saving blocked shot at the rim with 34 seconds left and UK down one point and Tyler Herro hit a three-pointer from the right wing with 25.5 seconds left to put Kentucky ahead for good and send the Cats to Sunday’s Midwest Region finals.

Game balls

1. Tyler Herro. With Kentucky’s season on the brink, the freshman guard (19 points, the game-winning shot) came up huge.

2. PJ Washington. The blocked shot on Corey Davis will become part of UK lore. Coming back from his sprained foot with 16 points was not bad, either.

3. Reid Travis. The graduate transfer from Stanford (11 rebounds, two assists) is the guy doing the little things it takes to win tournament games.

4. Armoni Brooks. The Houston guard (6-of-12 three-pointers, 20 points) single-handedly shot Houston back into the game.

Reasons for worry

1. Kentucky point guard play. Four points, one assist and four turnovers from Ashton Hagans was not an ideal showing from UK’s offensive initiator.

2. UK’s ability to close out games. The Wildcats lost all of a 13-point lead in the second half and needed some major clutch plays late to survive. From the come-from-ahead loss to Tennessee in the SEC Tournament semifinals through the wobbly finish vs. Wofford, UK is not “closing the door” efficiently.

3. Auburn. Are Bruce Pearl’s Tigers a team of destiny?

Key number(s)

Seven and one. In the John Calipari coaching era, Kentucky is now 7-1 in NCAA Tournament round-of-16 games.

The atmosphere

1. A little boy who took his shirt off and flexed like Mr. Universe drew massive crowd approval when shown on the Sprint Center video boards during “Flex Cam.”

2. Attendance in the Sprint Center was 17,385.

Up next

Midwest Region No. 2 seed Kentucky (30-6) will face No. 5 Auburn (29-9) Sunday in the Midwest Region finals for a berth in the Final Four.

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Mark Story has worked in the Lexington Herald-Leader sports department since Aug. 27, 1990, and has been a H-L sports columnist since 2001. I have covered every Kentucky-Louisville football game since 1994, every UK-U of L basketball game but three since 1996-97 and every Kentucky Derby since 1994.

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