Kentucky vs. Washington: Young Wildcats Outrun Huskies
The Huskies prefer an up-tempo game, and the young Wildcats were more than happy to oblige them.
Both teams came roaring out of the gate, with Washington drawing first blood on a tough Isaiah Thomas drive and a fast-break alley-oop forcing Kentucky into a timeout only 49 seconds into the game.
Kentucky answered with a 20-2 run early in the first half. Knight scored 11 points during the spurt, but the 'Cats followed that up with a period of complete offensive ineptitude, scoring only 14 points over the final 14 minutes of the first half. This allowed Washington back into the game, with the Huskies thriving off of there defensive intensity.
Kentucky seemed clueless as to how it should attack Washington's defense, and when Knight left the game with two fouls, John Calipari had to look to his bench for a floor leader. That, as it turned out, was the wrong place to look. No one could provide a steady -- or even functional -- offensive flow, and Washington took advantage.
The pace remained frenetic, if sloppy, throughout the remainder of the first half. The Huskies peppered in some highlight-reel plays, including a few monstrous blocks by Aziz N'Diaye and a ridiculous dunk from Matthew Bryan-Amaning. Washington finally pulled even late in the first half and took the lead on a Darnell Gant 3-pointer, but Kentucky only trailed by a single point going into the break.
The game continued on a similar plane in the second half, with both teams flying up and down the floor. Neither team held an advantage of greater than five over the first 10 minutes of the second half. Kentucky eventually stretched the lead to nine, but Washington fought all the way back -- again -- and the lead was down to two with only 36 seconds remaining. Fatigue and wayward shooting doomed the Huskies' late rally, though.
Free throws stymied the inexperienced Wildcats throughout, which is fast becoming a Calipari staple. However, they were able to hit late to secure the victory.
Washington was led by Thomas, who struggled from all over the floor and scored only 13 points on 4-of-14 shooting.
Kentucky (4-0) will face Connecticut Wednesday night in the Maui Invitational final, while Washington (3-1) faces No. 2 Michigan State.