PJ Washington Leads Cats to Gritty Win Over Texas A&M
The Wildcats faced a very good Texas A&M team that was desperate for an SEC win last night and the Cats sent them home with a fourth straight loss. It certainly wasn’t a pretty win but it was a huge win for this young team.
Just prior to tip-off it was learned that Quade Green would be out due to back pain. That left the Cats with just 7 scholarship players and the daunting task of facing the Aggies with a short bench. What followed was a gritty display of will and fight that the Cats have only displayed in stretches this season. Yes the final minute of the game was rough and could be made into a what not to do instructional video but that can be chalked up to youth.
PJ Washington set the tone and played with toughness and a will to win that seemed to energize his teammates. He finished the game with 16 points and came up with some huge plays down the stretch. He also has emerged as the Cats most vocal leader which is something Cal has been searching for. After a slow start to the season PJ has turned a corner and has scored double figures in his last three games. He did miss some free throws late and said he will be working on that more. You can see all of his post game comments in the video below
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander had anther great all around game and played 39 minutes. He stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. With Green out he was the Cats lone point guard and he ran the offense extremely well. He made a silly turnover in the final minute of the game that will serve as a great learning experience when that situation arises again this season. After playing so many minutes he said he couldn’t really feel his legs after the game.
Kevin Knox had his best game in a long time despite early foul trouble in the first half limiting his minutes. He was a perfect 5-5 from the floor including 2-2 from the 3 point line. He was much more aggressive going towards the rim than he has been. He finished with 15 points and hopefully got some of his confidence back. He did make 4 turnovers including a bad one late that he must learn from. All in all it was certainly a step in the right direction for him last night.
Hamidou Diallo was the fourth Wildcat to score at least 15 points last night and finished as the leading scorer with 18. He had a stretch of big plays in the 2nd half that helped keep the Cats in the game. He attacked the basket with authority and the Aggies had no answer for him. On one fast break PJ Washington threw a long outlet pass that only Diallo could have caught up to. Hami then finished the play off with an acrobatic up and under. It was a display of his athleticism that make him such a dangerous weapon. As he continues to hone in on what he does best it will benefit the team greatly.
The game was a great sign that this team is starting to figure things out. It was also a sign that they are still a team full of freshmen that will make head scratching mistakes from time to time. The only way to limit those mistakes in March is by letting them go through them now. The Cats will head down to Nashville on Saturday to face Vanderbilt. Hopefully Quade Green will get healthy by then and who knows, maybe Jarred Vanderbilt could play a few minutes. There are a lot of reasons for fans to feel good about the direction of this team. They still have more bumps and growing pains ahead but by March this will be a dangerous team.